After receiving three MiG-21MFs and three Mi-8s from Egypt just half a year ago, it appears the Libyan Air Force is now further strengthened by two MiG-21MFs from the same source. The former Egyptian Air Force (EAF) mounts are a welcome addition to the under-equipped Libyan Air Force, which is currently waging a war against Libya Dawn, Ansar al-Sharia and even the Islamic State, the latter centered around the Libyan city of Derna.
The spread of extremism so close to Egypt’s borders has led to great concern in Egypt, a feeling further strengthened by the beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Copts in Libya in early February 2015. Egypt subsequently launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in Libya, mainly targeting training camps and weapon depots.
Egypt’s strategy in helping Libya’s internationally recognised government in Tobruk combating Libya Dawn, Ansar al-Sharia and the Islamic State has mainly focused on the transfer of military equipment to the ill-equipped Libyan National Army (LNA) and Libyan Air Force. For example, only one MiG-23UB is available for operations over and around Libya’s capital Tripoli.
The situation in Eastern Libya is slightly better, with several ex-Egyptian MiG-21MFs, MiG-21bis, Mi-35s and Mi-8s available here. Most of these assets are currently stationed at Gamal Abdul El Nasser, also known as Tobruk International Airport.
The three ex-Egyptian MiG-21MFs, serialed 18, 26 and 27, are now joined by MiG-21MF ’22’ and another example that is yet to receive its Libyan roundel, flag and serial number. All MiG-21MFs continue to operate in their Egyptian style camouflage pattern.
Egypt originally acquired large numbers of MiG-21s in the 60s and 70s, and still continues to operate a part of the MiG-21MF fleet. But as more modern aircraft are being acquired by the EAF, all are slated to be decommissioned in the coming years. Selling some of the MiG-21s for a soft price or donating them to the Libyan Air Force contributes to the Libyan Air Force’s firepower and ability to quell the rise of Libya Dawn, Ansar al-Sharia and the Islamic State, without costing Egypt valuable assets.
In order to maintain the now five-strong fleet of MiG-21MFs, associated munitions and spare parts were also delivered to Libya. The two bombs below, reading ‘Present to the hero martyr Abdullah al-Fakih’ and ‘Present to the soul of ….’ can be identified as 250kg NASR-250 general-purpose bombs, produced by Egypt.
The Libyan Air Force, previously only operating the MiG-21bis and MiG-21UM variants, can count on experienced pilots and technicians to keep the now increasingly large MiG-21MF fleet operational. A stable flow of spare parts and ammuniton from Egypt will enable the fleet to provide the much needed fire support for the Libyan National Army in Eastern Libya.