By Libya Herald reporter.
Malta, 13 February 2015:
The Libyan Air Force part of the Libyan National Army (LNA), the army representing the . . .[restrict]House of Representatives and Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni’s government, the only internationally recognized legislature and government in Libya, has announced that it has received a new Ilyushin cargo transporter.
There is no independent confirmation of this report.
Saqr Geroushi, head of the Libyan Air Force, was reported by LANA as saying that the Ilyushin-73 had arrived in Tobruk Thursday.
It would provide important support to the Libya air force in its ‘’continuous battles against the so-called terrorist Libya Dawn militias and the extremist groups in the various parts of the western Libyan territories that have a wide geographical spread’’, LANA quoted Geroushi as saying.
The reported arrival of an Ilyushin transporter plane to the LNA/Dignity air force arsenal comes on the back of the mysterious destruction of another Ilyushin cargo plan at Mitiga airport at the end of January.
The plane was variously reported as having caught fire due to an electric fault, or due to fire in a nearby fuel tanker or part of a planned military sabotage operation.
The report of the LNA/Dignity camp allegedly receiving reinforcements also comes on the back of a report at the beginning of January that they had received a new delivery of four Russian made Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jets.There had been no independent confirmation of that claim at the time either.
These jets would strengthen the capabilities of the LNA in the war it is waging against the ‘‘extremist and terrorist militias” in any place in Libya, the report had said .
Furthermore, the report had added that the SU-27 Russian-made fighter jet was capable of covering a distance of 3,530 km with a top speed of 2,500 kmh.
Meanwhile, a LNA official in Beida had informed the Libya Herald in December that four new Sukhoi jet fighter aircraft had been delivered by the Russians to Tobruk. They were not fully assembled, he had said, and it would be several days before they would be used.
In mid-December an official at the Zintan Operations Room (ZOR) had also claimed that two new fighter planes had been flown to the Wattiya airbase, south of Al-Jmail.
The ZOR commander had also declared that as a result of the new arrival of fighter jets, “Misrata will be targeted within hours”.
Again, there had been no independent confirmation either from Moscow or the government in Beida.
It is thought that the fighter jets may be the four Su-30MK2s which were part of a $1.6-billion contract signed by the Qaddafi regime at the beginning of 2010. It also included 14 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter planes, 6 Yak-130s and other armaments. Russia lifted its arms embargo on Libya in May 2012.
The two LNA aircraft operating at present out of Wattiya are also Sukhois, but reportedly were provided by the Egyptians.
What is clear is that while both camps and or their representative, on one level, are participating in the UN-brokered political dialogue in Ghadames-Geneve-Ghadames, they are also seeking to arm their military forces.
This is given some credibility by the recent meeting by Misrata’s Abdurrahman Sewehli, one of the leading opponents of the House of Representatives (HoR), in the Ukrainian capital Kiev with the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin.
Meanwhile, former Libyan foreign minister Mohamed Adbulaziz, who acts as roving ambassador for HoR President Ageela Salah Gwaider, was in Moscow in a bid to build up new military ties with the Russians.
Although the exact nature of the talks in Kiev were unknown, Sewehli was reported as saying that his objective was to explain the views of those supporting Libya Dawn and to gain support for the GNC in Europe.
However, sources had said that the real aim of his trip was to acquire arms and munitions from Ukraine for Libya Dawn, known to be in need of new supplies.
In particular, he was said to be looking for equipment to turn two MiG 23s in Misrata’s possession into fully functioning fighter planes. He was also reportedly seeking two Libyan Ilyushin 76 transport planes currently in Ukraine awaiting repairs.
There are unconfirmed reports that Sewehli, a member of the reconstituted General National Congress and of the HoR, but which along with other Misratan members he is boycotting, had been the previous week in Montreux meeting a number of Libyan military officials invited to join in the UNSMIL dialogue taking place at the other end of Lake Geneva.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Abdulaziz had indicated that Russia was well disposed to supplying the Libyan armed forces with equipment. According to the recently opened state-owned Sputnik news service, Abdulaziz had told the Russians that “Libya wants its military personnel to be trained by Russian specialists and to receive modern Russian weaponry” and that he had “met understanding of this issue from Russia”.
It had also quoted him saying at a press conference in Moscow: “We hope that this [military] cooperation will continue in two main areas — in the field of education and training of Libyan national [military] personnel and the provision of modern weapons to Libya.”
The prospect of the Libyan rivals gaining military support from warring Ukraine and Russia could prove highly awkward for some European states and especially the USA. It supports Kiev in its current struggle with Moscow. But if Kiev were to supply arms to the Hassi regime in Tripoli, which it does not recognize, it could cause a major political row in Washington. [/restrict]