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Libyan Army Under Qadaffi

Under Qadaffi the Army was charged with border protection and acting as a rapid deployment force depending on operational circumstances. Doctrine was a mixture of Egyptian doctrine which was adopted after the 1969 coup and socialist principles derived from the concepts of a People's Army. The Libyan Army is the largest and most developed branch of the armed forces. The Libyan Army is generally regarded as neither efficient nor well trained. Limited combat experience includes a rather disastrous showing in operations against Chad, which highlighted its many weaknesses. Over 4,000 Libyan soldiers were killed by Chad's forces between January and March 1987.

The pattern of troop concentrations could not be determined precisely from published sources. Some troops were at the operational sites, including Tripoli, Misratah, Az Zawiyah, Surt, Benghazi, Darnah, and Tobruk, that were established at strategic points along the Mediterranean coast during World War II. Others were at inland sites at desert oases, such as Sabha, and farther south, at Al Kufrah, which became the main base for operations in Chad. Areas adjacent to the Egyptian border, particularly along lines of movement, were also well defended. Many army units were scattered throughout populated areas, owing in part to their responsibility for training People's Militia units.

Few details were available on army training. The military academy at Benghazi, established before independence with British assistance, offered its cadets courses in higher education and military subjects to prepare them for active duty as junior officers. Qadhafi and other members of the RCC attended the institution, but it was closed after the coup. Later a military academy opened at Tripoli.

In 1985 a military engineering college (at an unspecified location) to provide training in all technical military specialities was proposed. The college was to have a four-year program leading to a bachelor's degree. At about the same time, the establishment of a reserves college with a one-year program leading to the rank of second lieutenant in the reserves was announced. Admission would be contingent on the attainment of a university degree or its equivalent and a demonstration of "adherence to the great Fatah revolution." Because Libya is not known to have an active reserve program, it remained unclear how the graduates of this institution would be used. By the late 1980s, the Libyan army was well outfitted with modern armaments, including rocket systems, armored vehicles for its infantry and artillery, engineering equipment, up-to-date Soviet infantry weapons, sophisticated fire-control systems, flame throwers and chemical munitions, and antitank guided missiles. Libya's more than 3,000 tanks gave it the tenth largest tank force in the world. Its range of tracked and wheeled armor, tank transporters, and air transport ensured it the necessary mobility to bring its forces to bear rapidly against any threat to its territorial integrity and enabled it to intervene in ventures far beyond its borders.

The army was nevertheless confronted by grave deficiencies. The high technological level of its equipment demanded a corresponding level of technical competence in operation and maintenance that the army lacked. Maintenance and repair problems were exacerbated by the diversity of arms sources--British, American, French, Soviet, Italian, and Brazilian. The numerous foreign advisers and technicians were insufficient to overcome low standards of support and logistics. To judge from the ability the Libyans demonstrated in Chad to sustain modern combat operations over extended supply lines, some progress was being made in correcting these problems.

Recent years saw the Army undermined by the embargo, which deprived it of new weapons. International sanctions against Libya caused major problems with equipment maintenance, making an accurate assessment difficult. In the 1990s European and US agencies intercepted numerous shipments of spare parts and dual-use material being smuggled to Libya, but it must be assumed that some clandestine shipments did get through. It was aanticipated that the ending of sanctions and the procurement of new equipment, as well as new training opportunities, may herald an improvement in the capabilities of the army.

After many years of sanctions, Libya had a requirement for a wholesale modernisation of its vehicle fleet. All major areas of the land forces equipment need improvment, especially the replacement of obsolete Soviet main battle tanks and artillery. Over half of Libya's armored forces were thought to be in storage following the chronic shortage of spare parts for Soviet-era equipment, which in any event was rapidly becoming obsolete. Much of the Soviet-era equipment needed to be replaced including main battle tanks and land vehicles. Libya was looking to France to bolster the anti-armor capabilities of the land forces, concluding a US$218.4 million deal in August 2007 with MBDA for the supply of Milan ADT-ER anti-tank missiles. The UK may also become a supplier of defence materiel. Probably the largest number of vehicles to be procured were to be wheeled tactical vehicles as these can perform a wide range of roles in all types of warfare. In February 2009 the Bin Jabr Group received a contract to provide 120 Nimr 44 vehicles, specifically developed for operating in desert conditions, featuring a custom cooling system.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2013 19:12:58 ZULU