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Libyan Air Defense in the 80s

Order of battle of the Libyan Arab Air Defense Force
in the eighties

Draft site only!

Libya began building a modern and integrated air defense system in the mid-1970s. They imported large numbered radars, surface-to-air missiles, communication and other related equipment were imported from the Soviet Union.

The USSR delivered 39 S-75 Volhov and 44 S-125 Neva anti-aircraft missile battalions between 1974 and 1985 to the Libyan Air Defense. As planned, these forces are defending the large Libyan cities, like Tripoli, Misurata, Sirte, Benghazi, and Tobruk along the Mediterranean coast. Thousands of Soviet advisers helped build the new integrated air defense system.

In the middle of the eighties, the Libyan Air Defense force the air force had eleven anti-aircraft missile brigades, including:

  • Eleven SAM brigade with a mixed composition of S-75 Volhov and S-125 Neva missile battalions
  • One of them used S-200 Vega very long range SAM system as well.
  • And more "Kub" brigade and one brigade with "Osa" from the ground forces.

These SAM forces were divided between four air defense sector/air defense divisions:

Libyan Arab Air Defense Force

All of this was a huge amount of force, but unfortunately, the Libyan Air Defense Force was unable to use that force effectively. Due to serious organizational omissions and deficiencies in the training of troops, the Libyan Air Defense was not effective. There was no effective communication between the units, no camouflage was used and no units moved, etc.

This huge organization was neither efficient nor completed. Soviet advisers were still working on its completion in 1986.


’Tripoli’ Air Defence Sector/Air Defense Division

The largest Air Defense sector, the Tripoli, had four Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade and three interceptor air squadrons. The 1st and the 11th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigades defended the capital city from east and west. One Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade used ASURK-1 automated command and control system, while the rest were not automated.

’Tripoli’ Air Defence Sector
antiaircraft missile and interceptor aircraft units

Libyan Arab Air Defense Force Tripoli
Libyan Arab Air Defense Force Tripoli
Libyan Arab Air Defense Force Tripoli

The latest MiG-23MLD (MLAE-2) 'Flogger-G' interceptors arrived at Tripoli airport in 1984. Thus, mixed French Dassault Mirage F-1ED and Soviet MiG-23MLD forces protected this area, between the destruction zones of the anti-aircraft missile brigades.

Libyan Mirage F-1ED

The Libyan Mirage F-1ED interceptor used a pair of internal 30 mm cannons, and a single Matra R-530 medium-range air-to-air missile, which was carried under the fuselage. And two Matra R550 Magics missiles on the wingtip pylons.

Libyan MiG-23MLD - MiG-23MLAE-2

The Libyan MiG-23MLD (MLAE-2 23-22B) ‘Flogger-G’ version used an internal GSh-23 twin-barreled 23 mm cannon, modern R-60 ‘AA-8 Aphid’ is a short-range infrared homing air-to-air missile and R-24R/T ‘AA-7 Apex’ medium-range air-to-air missile too.

Libyan MiG-25P Foxbat-A

One MiG-25PU ‘Foxbat-C’ trainer and two MiG-25P ‘Foxbat-A’ interceptor aircraft at Tripoli airport in 1989. This fighter version used the older R-40R/T ‘AA-6 Acrid' missile only. Photo: Barry Iverson collection