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Free Libyan Air Force

Free Libyan Air Force
القوات الجوية الليبية الحرة
Active March 2011-October 2011
Country  Libya
Allegiance National Transitional Council
Branch Air Force
Role Aerial warfare, Close air support

3,000 volunteers 28+ aircraft
9+ Helicopters

Part of Anti-Gaddafi forces
Headquarters Benina Airbase, Benghazi

Libyan Civil War

Chief of Staff Saqr Geroushi
Colonel Abdullah El-Hassi
Colonel Ali Atiyya
Fin Flash
Aircraft flown
Fighter MiG-23, MiG-21, Aero L-39, Soko J-21
Attack helicopter Mi-25
Utility helicopter Mi-14
Trainer Soko G-2 Galeb, SF.260
Transport Aerospace 146, Il-76, An-26

The Free Libyan Air Force (Arabic: القوات الجوية الليبية الحرة‎) was the air force of the National Transitional Council, a collection of defected Loyalist Military personnel and captured aircraft that aligned themselves with the anti-Gaddafi forces in the Libyan Civil War.


  • Operations 1
  • Aircraft 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


On 13 March 2011, Ali Atiyya, a colonel of the Libyan Air Force at the Mitiga military airport, near Tripoli defected and joined the revolution. This is the earliest reference to the anti-Gaddafi forces having Air Force personnel. Later on 16 March, as many as four MiG-21 fighter jets landed at Benghazi airport and joined the rebel forces; one of the MiG-21s crashed near Benina airport on the following day.

The Free Libyan Air Force showed itself for the first time in 15 March, launching an attack with a MiG-23 and a helicopter, sinking two pro-Gaddafi warships off the eastern coast near the front line of land battles at Adjabiya. Beforehand, the same aircraft also bombed an unspecified number of loyalist tanks near Brega and Ajdabiya.[1] The same day, it was reported that Sirte's Gardabya Airport had its runways bombed by Free Libyan Air Force jets.[2] On 19 March, a MiG-23 was shot down during the Second Battle of Benghazi. Media reports were initially confused, until a spokesman confirmed that the plane belonged to the rebels.[3] A pro-Gaddafi spokesman said that the rebels had violated the UN no-fly zone.[4] A rebel spokesman claimed the aircraft was shot down by pro-Gaddafi forces.[5] Finally, BBC News reported on 20 March that the rebel aircraft was shot down by friendly fire, and the pilot, Colonel Mohammed Mbarak al-Okaili,[6] was killed after ejecting too late.[7] Another rebel jet was downed the same day, though no further information was given and it is possible that it is the plane lost on 22 March.[8]

On 22 March, a pilot of the Free Libyan Air Force, Colonel Fakhri Alsalabi, flew his jet into Bab Al Azizia in an apparent suicide mission, causing extensive damage and leading to rumors of Khamis Gaddafi's death, who later was proven to have survived unharmed.[9]

A total of 38 combat missions were flown by jet and helicopter pilots of the Free Libyan Air Force throughout March until the No Fly Zone was imposed, effectively grounding the small air force. Nine of these strikes were carried out by the rebels three Mi-35 helicopters gunships against Gaddafi's armoured columns advancing on Benghazi, one of which was destroyed.[8]

On 9 April, a single rebel Mi-25 helicopter was seen flying over Ajdabiya and[10] was claimed shot down by government forces.[11] That same day, a rebel MiG-23 fighter was intercepted by NATO aircraft and escorted back to its base.[12]

On 27 June 2011, three Free Libyan Air Force MiG-21s, one two seater and two single seaters were photographed over Benina Airport in Benghazi.

Later in the conflict, as supplies were being flown in to areas of Libya besieged by Gaddafi loyalists, MiG-21 fighter jets under opposition control escorted the supply planes to protect them from loyalist attack.[13]

After gaining permission from NATO, an AN-26 and BAE-146 of the Free Libyan Air Force flew from Libya for the 2011 Malta International Air Show on 24 and 25 September, joining the two Mirage F1s already stationed there. Libyan Air Force Brigadier General Mohammed Rajab conducted a ceremony where the Libyan Air Force green roundels on the Mirage F1s were replaced by the FLAF tricolour roundel, followed by the aircraft conducting the first foreign display by the FLAF. It was revealed at the airshow that the BAE-146 had been used for 32 covert flights during the conflict in spite of the no-fly zone, landing on desert roads to supply ammunition and transport injured rebels to hospital. The aircraft had been commanded by Capt Ali Samoussi. The Libyan Ambassador, Saadun Suayeh, was present, and described the replacement of the roundels as a moment of "pride, joy and honour", and expressed his hope that the aircraft would soon return to Libya.[14]

On 23 October, three FLAF Mi-14's conducted a flypast at the declaration of national liberation ceremony in Benghazi overseen by Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

During the 2012 Sabha clashes a Free Libyan Air Force MiG-21bis and MiG-21UM were deployed to the area.

On April 11, 2012 a Free Libyan Air Force Mi-8T(cn8335) crashed on takeoff at Murzuq Airport after being overloaded. All 25 people on board survived though.

On April 12, 2012, a Free Libyan Air Force Mirage F1ED(cn502) crashed near Kasr El Hamrouniya Ben Gashir. The pilot was apparently killed in the crash. This accident is unconfirmed.

Following the near complete destruction of the Libyan air force by NATO bombing, the Free Libyan Air Force has since effectively become the new Libyan Air Force. It is unknown whether or not the Free Libyan air force exists still or if it is now totally integrated as part of the Libyan Air Force.

On 20 June 2012 the Air Force Chief of Staff, Saqr Geroushi, announced plans for the rebuilding of the Libyan Air Force. The plans included proposals for the purchase of two squadrons of French Rafale fighter aircraft, a number of French F1-Mirage jets, British Eurofighter Typhoons, and American C-130 Hercules cargo planes and Chinook helicopters.[15]

The Free Libyan Air Force is looking to acquire up to 22 medium to heavy lift helicopters for cargo and troop ferrying. Known contenders are the Mil Mi-26 Halo, AgustaWestland AW101, and Boeing CH-47D/F Chinnok.[16]


Aircraft Country of origin Type Version In service Notes
Fighter Aircraft
Dassault Mirage F1  France fighter aircraft F1ED 2 2 defected to Malta on 21 February 2011, handed back on 22 February 2012. One F1ED (cn502) crashed on 12 April 2012 killing the pilot (this accident is unconfirmed.) Two airframes spotted during the second anniversary of the uprising in 2013.[17]
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21  Soviet Union fighter aircraft MiG‑21bis 2 Several captured in Benina and Tobruk airbases. Up to four MiG-21bis/UM defected at Benina airbase.[18] One MiG-21bis crashed after take-off from Benina airport due to technical malfunction on 17 March 2011.[19] One of these was deployed along with a MiG-21UM during the 2012 Sabha clashes.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23  Soviet Union fighter aircraft MiG‑23ML 2 Four captured by rebels at Tobruk air base.[20] Four captured by rebels in hangar at Misrata.[21] One captured by rebels at Al-Abrak.[22] One MiG-23BN claimed to be lost over Tripoli in 13 March 2011. One MiG-23 was shot down over Benghazi in 19 March 2011. At least one is based at Benghazi along with a MiG-23UB.
Soko J-21 Jastreb  Yugoslavia ground-attack aircraft J-1E N/A Two defected to Benghazi on 24 February. Current status unknown.
Trainer Aircraft
Aero L-39 Albatros Czechoslovakia light attack/trainer Aero L-39ZO 3 Two seized during the battle of Tripoli.[23] At least 3 operational in 2013.[24][25][26]
Soko G-2 Galeb  Yugoslavia fighter trainer G-2A-E 4 Several captured in Misrata airbase;[21] At least 4 operational in 2013.[27]
Aermacchi SF.260  Italy basic trainer SF.260WL/ML 6 Several captured in Misrata airbase. At least 6 operational in 2013.[28]
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21  Soviet Union Lead-In Trainer MiG-21UM 2 2 confirmed via photographs. One of these was deployed along with a MiG-21bis during the 2012 Sabha clashes.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23  Soviet Union Lead-In Trainer MiG-23UB 1 At least one based at Benghazi along with a MiG-23ML.
Transport Aircraft
British Aerospace 146  United Kingdom regional airliner BAe 146-300 1 Used for medical evacuation and delivering medical supplies,[29] as well as supplying ammunition to remote rebel units.
Ilyushin Il-76  Soviet Union strategic airlifter Il-76TD 2 Seized by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, transferred to the Free Libyan Air Force in 11 August,[30] additional one seized during the battle of Tripoli. Probably not airworthy.[23]
Antonov An-26  Soviet Union medium transport 3 One captured by protesters in Kufra on 17 February,[31] two seized during the battle of Tripoli. Probably not airworthy.[23]
C-130 Hercules  USA tactical transport C-130H 1 [32]
Lockheed L-100 Hercules  USA transport 1 [32]
Aérospatiale Gazelle  France /
Attack helicopter ? ?
Boeing CH-47 Chinook  United States heavy transport helicopter CH-47C 1 One seized during the battle of Tripoli. Probably not airworthy.[23]
Mil Mi-2 Poland transport helicopter Mi-2 1+ Several captured in Misrata airbase; currently status is unknown.
Mil Mi-8  Soviet Union transport helicopter Mi-8T/MT 1 Captured in abandoned condition at Ra's Lanuf airfield on 4 March.[31] Another Mi-8T(cn8335) crashed April 11, 2012 without any fatalities.
Mil Mi-14  Soviet Union ASW helicopter Mi-14 3 At least three captured in Benina airbase.[33]
Mil Mi-17  Soviet Union/ Russia transport helicopter Mi-17 2+ At least one captured in Benghazi. One was seen during the Battle of Sirte, another during the Battle of Misrata.[34]
Mil Mi-24  Soviet Union attack helicopter Mi-25 1 At least two captured in Benina airbase;[35] One shot down by loyalist forces.[11]
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Aeryon Scout
Miniature UAV Aeryon Scout 1 [36] Aeryon Labs Inc provided one Aeryon Scout to the Libyan rebels, including training provided by Zariba Security Corporation.[36][37]
Air defence SAM
Lavochkin SA-2  Soviet Union Air defence SAM SA-2 2 At least two have been reported captured by anti-government protesters and defected military units in Tobruk.
SA-5  Soviet Union Air defence SAM SA-5 1 One captured by rebels near Bani Walid.[38]


  1. ^ "Libyan website reports rebels sink Gaddafi ships". Reuters. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Information Dissemination: Libyan Navy Attacked by Fighter Jets - Updated". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Baz, Patrick (26 June 2011). The Washington Post . Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Fighter plane shot down in Libya's Benghazi: Al-Jazeera". Xinhua. 19 March 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Libya: French plane fires on military vehicle". BBC News. 19 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Baz, Patrick (26 June 2011). The Washington Post . Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "'"Benghazi 'bombarded by pro-Gaddafi forces. BBC News. 20 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "The hero airmen of Benghazi". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (22 March 2011). "'"For the sins of his father: Gaddafi's son 'killed in kamikaze pilot attack on barracks. Daily Mail (London). 
  10. ^ "Libya Live Blog - April 9". Al Jazeera. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  11. ^ a b McGreal, Chris (10 April 2011). "Libya: rebel defences 'failing' as Gaddafi forces move towards Benghazi". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 10 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Libya: Fierce battle for second day in Ajdabiya". BBC News. 10 April 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  13. ^ David Axe - Wired. "The Tech That Took Out Gaddafi". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "Airshows >> Europe: Malta International Air Show 2011 - Review - Global Aviation Resource". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Libyan air force set for major upgrade". Libya Herald. 20 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  16. ^ Libya; AF Requirement for heavy lift helicopters -, 21 September 2013
  17. ^ "Timeline Photos - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Boresight: A Spade is a Spade for Odyssey Dawn". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  19. ^ Aviation Safety Network (17 March 2011). "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 121151". Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  20. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "misurata airport.wmv". YouTube. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Libya unrest – in pictures". The Guardian (London). 24 February 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c d "YouTube". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  24. ^ "‫الطائرة L -39 - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  25. ^ "Timeline Photos - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "Timeline Photos - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Timeline Photos - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "Timeline Photos - Libyan Air Force - Facebook". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "Picture of the British Aerospace BAe-146-300 aircraft". 6 July 2011. 
  30. ^ "DJ Cargo Plane Handed Over To Libya Rebels". The Morning Star. 11 August 2011. 
  31. ^ a b "The Boresight: Libyan Conflict: Fixed-wing Combat Aircraft make an Appearance". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  32. ^ a b US notifies Congress of potential Libyan C-130J sale -, 11 June 2013
  33. ^ "‫قائد الطائره الذي رفض قصف بنغازي - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  34. ^ "Helicopters in Libya". Military In the Middle East. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  35. ^ "Libya unrest: Benghazi revels in freedom from Gaddafi". BBC News. 26 February 2011. 
  36. ^ a b [1] Aeryon Scout Micro UAV Helps Libyan Rebels in March to Tripoli
  37. ^ [2] Canadian robot spy flies for Libyan rebels
  38. ^ "Libya fighters look for desert showdown with Gaddafi". Reuters. 1 September 2011. 

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