The latest downing, caught on video, proves the airspace around Libya’s capital is still extremely dangerous.
A LNA AF MiG-23ML was shot down by Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) forces on Dec. 7, 2019. The pilot, reportedly the experienced Brig. Gen. Aamer Al-Jagam, managed to eject from the Flogger and was arrested.
The MiG-23 serial “26144” was brought back to active service at Benghazi airport, in eastern Libya, where it had been in storage for many years, recently: images of the jet being loaded with bombs at Benghazi emerged in September:
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) September 19, 2019
#Libya – #LNA AF lost MiG-23ML serial ‘26144’ today over Zawiyah. The pilot – Brig. Gen. Aamer Al-Jagam ejected safely and was captured. Al-Jagam has long time experience within LNA AF. Pictures below were taken in 2016. pic.twitter.com/iwnzP7h677
— Arnaud Delalande (@Arn_Del) December 7, 2019
The aircraft made the news when it was photographed flying with parts cannibalized from other MiG-23 and for this reason it was dubbed the “Frankenstein Flogger“.
The bravest person in the world apparently lives in Libya and his name is whoever built his own MiG-23 out of parts from at *least* three different airframes from other models. pic.twitter.com/ernH3FYTRF
— Mass for Shut-ins (is a podcast) (@edburmila) August 6, 2019
Video shared online allegedly shows an armed group claiming to be members of GNA using MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) to target Khalifa Haftars’ MiG-23: while the quality is poor, the clip seems to show an 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO reporting name SA-7 Grail) man-portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude, IR (infra-red) guided, surface-to-air missile system. Interestingly, on Apr. 14, 2019, an LNA AF MiG-21 jet was shot down during the LNA advance on Tripoli allegedly using Chinese-made FN-6 MANPADS, known to be in the hands of GNA armed groups.
The footage doesn’t show the exact moment the MiG-23 was hit so we can’t be sure the video shows yesterday’s episode or another attempt at shooting down Haftar’s jet earlier. Actually, there are conflicting reports even as to where the jet was shot down: some reports say the MiG-23 crashed in western Tripoli whereas others say it was hit and crashed near Yarmouk Camp frontline in southern Tripoli.
— أحـمـد الجـطـلاوي (@ahmedfeeb1975) December 7, 2019
Needless to say, LNA has acknowledged the loss, but says the MiG-23 crashed for technical reasons:
Statement by the General Command regarding the crashed fighter jet pic.twitter.com/gYRDUawycH
— LNA Spox. (@spoxlna) December 8, 2019
Noteworthy, an unspecified U.S. drone crashed in Libya on Nov. 21, the day after the Italian Air Force lost another unarmed MQ-9A Predator-B drone southeast of Tripoli. As we have widely reported, while the LNA claimed to have shot down both drones, it is still not clear whether the UAVs have been shot down by SAM (Surface to Air Missiles), Electronic Warfare Attack, or simply because of technical failure. The LNA imposed a NFZ over Tripoli on Nov. 23:
Restricted Airspace announcement pic.twitter.com/TkBhGFnuJw
— LNA Spox. (@spoxlna) November 23, 2019
“Today we declare a no-fly zone, where flying is totally prohibited without prior coordination with the General Command of the armed forces,” LNA Spokesperson al-Masmari told a news conference, adding that Mitiga, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, was exempt for humanitarian reasons. In response to the LNA’s declaration, the GNA-affiliated interior ministry said in a statement that any action threatening civil aviation and airports “amounts to crimes punishable under national and international law”, Al Jazeera reported.
NFZ or not, yesterday’s downing as well as the somehow mysterious loss of the two drones on Nov. 20-21, prove that the skies over Tripoli can be extremely dangerous for all the parties (and foreign actors…).