Friday, March 11, 2011


On paper, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has an army of 76,000 soldiers and 40,000 paramilitary troops. He also has 260 attack aircraft (mostly MIG 25 and 23s), 650 tanks, 2,300 artillery pieces and more than 100 helicopters (figures from Israeli site Middle East Military Balance).

Mig 23 FLOGGER (above) and Mig 25 FOXBAT (below)

These are the official figures. The reality is Libya's forces have suffered double cuts; a state of decay due to poor maintenance and upkeep of already obsolete equipment, and mass defections of men, weaponry and materiel due to the struggle which is becoming a full-fledged civil war.

Obsolete Weaponry

Most of Libya’s heavy equipment was bought from the former USSR in the 1970s (the country was subject of an international arms embargo for most of the last four decades). Most of this equipment can now be considered obsolete compared to other modern armies. His best weapons, especially the anti-aircraft weapons and aircraft, have always been run and maintained by foreign troops, including Syrians, Koreans and East Europeans, among others. The Libyan soldiers are almost incompetent with this superior technology.


If the official estimations of Gaddafi's forces were correct, there wouldn’t be any insurgents left in Libya right now. Instead, a significant number of towns (including most of the country’s eastern coastal strip) have fallen to the opposition without fighting, attack aircraft have been missing their targets by considerable margins (often intentionally) and Libyan soldiers have deserted in droves.

Ever since he came to power Gaddafi has looked to reduce the strength of the regular Libyan army in order to reduce the risk of a potential rival emerging from his own forces.

Gaddafi's parallel security services include the Revolutionary Guards, people’s militias and his Islamic Pan-African Legion. These paramilitary forces, as well as the favored members of Gaddafi’s own clan, have always been the best trained and best equipped.

Gaddafi relies extensively on family and clan ties to ensure absolute loyalty. But now he can only really rely on the most loyal of the loyal, those who have absolutely nothing to lose. Of his personal forces; half of his mercenaries have decamped, the conscript Libyan army has joined the insurgents and many senior figures have defected.

Friday Bird HERE


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