MiG-21 Allegedly Shot Down with MANPADS Over Tripoli As Conflict Between Rival Forces In Libya Escalates

Video and still photos of the claimed Libyan MiG-21 shoot-down appeared on Twitter and in news media. (Photos: via Twitter)

Video Shows Dramatic Air Defense Missile Launches, Photos Show Claimed Crash.

An armed grouped claiming to be members of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) has shared video and photos of a Libyan National Army (LNA) MiG-21 they claim was shot down on April 14, 2019 outside the city of Tripoli. The Libyan National Army acknowledged the aircraft had crashed, but claimed it was an accident and was not shot down.

Because the ongoing tactical and political situation in Libya is complex and obscured by pejorative media reports from all sides, most interpretations of the role of both the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the members of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the ongoing conflict suggest no clearly defined agenda for either organization. As a result, it has been difficult for outsiders to understand and analyze the highly dynamic nature of the conflict. In short, the conflict is complicated and frequently changing with no one party emerging as either “good guy” or “bad guy”.

For sure, the LNA has started an advance on Tripoli and clashes have intensified since then.

Based on footage emerged on social media, it looks like the aircraft was targeted by FN-6 reportedly delivered from Qatar via Sudan.

There remains significance to this week’s MiG-21 incident. Firstly, it proves that small, post-Gaddafi insurgencies have operable, highly portable anti-aircraft systems that are at least capable of actually firing. Two missile trails are seen in the video. That situation alone is cause for concern for every government in the region since these weapons could be used for any purpose in-theater, including employing them against civil aviation targets.

Still photos of the claimed Libyan MiG-21 crash site do show matches with photo of the nose landing gear assembly of MiG-21s. (Photos: via Twitter/Wiki)

Additionally, since the weapons appear to be in the hands of irregular militia, they may be transferred to any party more easily than if under more regimented, internationally recognized state control. If the men shown in this video have several highly portable, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile systems, there may be more, and those systems could be moved outside Libya and used anywhere in the region.

Finally, the presence of the Libyan National Army (LNA) MiG-21 presumably launching ground attacks on Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) targets proves the LNA is still capable of getting at least some aircraft in the air, posing a potential threat to any party not aligned with the Libyan National Army’s agenda.

The aircraft shot down on Apr. 14 is believed to be a MiG-21MF formerly belonging to the Egyptian Air Force.

The problem with any large-scale disruption of a previously regimented government is that the arsenal of that prior government is no longer secured. Sophisticated anti-aircraft systems and fighter jets fall into the hands of opportunists in the region. This presents a potential volatile and dangerous situation for all governments in the region.

According to a report published April 14, 2019 on Southfront.org, “The downed MiG-21 jet is the first confirmed and the second claimed downed jet since the start of the LNA advance on Tripoli. On April 10 (2019), the LNA announced that it had downed a L-39 jet of the GNA Air Force”.

The intesification of the aerial activity over Libya is closely monitored by NATO that has started flying E-3 AWACS missions south of Malta more frequently in the last few days.

Here’s the route followed on Apr. 16 by a NATO E-3 from Geilenkirchen, Germany.

NATO E-3 AWACS flying off Libya. (Image credit: ADSBExchange.com).