A photo, reportedly taken in Benghazi a couple of days ago, could prove it’s not the Egyptian Air Force but the Libyan Air Force conducting air strikes in the country.
On Oct. 16, some media outlets reported the news that airstrikes against jihadists in Libya were conducted by Egyptian Air Force aircraft piloted by Libyan officers.
Free Libya Air Force (as the Libyan Arab Air Force was dubbed in 2011), is equipped with a handful of front line fighter jets, most of which are obsolete, scarcely overhauled Soviet combat planes that have survived the uprising and the subsequent fierce struggle between militias. Among them, there are a handful of Mig-21 Fishbeds (some of those have crashed, including one in downtown Tobruk last month).
It’s hard to believe any Libyan pilot may have attained the required training and experience to carry out the attack using a modern Egyptian plane. Libyan pilots are elderly officers who have flown little flight hours in the last decade or so and may have some experience with the aircraft they have flown for the last 30 years only.
Unless they used one of the Mig-21s still flown by the EAF, the chances that a Libyan pilot conducted an air strike on an Egyptian combat jet are really scarce. Furthermore, Egypt operates the fourth largest fleet of F-16s, American aircraft that can carry PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and F-4E Phantoms that would be better candidates for an air strike. Anyway, any war mission is likely to be conducted with a combat plane more modern than a Mig-21, flown by experienced aircrews.
Indeed, a photo taken by Libyan photographer Maher Alawami shows a Mig-21 during an air strike over Benghazi on Oct. 15. Therefore, provided it was really taken a couple of days ago, the image seems to suggest (at least some) attack missions in East Libya are actually conducted by Libyan pilots on Libyan aircraft.
On top of this article you can find a slightly edited version of the image taken by Alwami with the roundel of the FLAF highlighted and magnified (for those who don’t know it very well). The original photo can be found here.
It’s not the first time Libyan Migs are used to perform air strikes across the country. In December 2012, some Libyan Air Force combat planes hit a camp possibly used by suspected smugglers near the border with Chad and Sudan.
Image credit: Maher Alawami