From Libya, we have not seen reports of fighting at sea, and with the use of aircraft. Unknown aircraft (presumably MiG-29s) attacked a Turkish merchant ship in the port of Tripoli, and a Turkish Navy frigate was attacked in Libyan waters. Where could this unexpected help to Marshal Haftar come from and how can it harm Turkey?
By Eugene Krutikov
Supporters of the Libyan national army (LNA) of Marshal Haftar recently promised the Government of national accord (NPA) in Tripoli and its Turkish ally a “large – scale air war”. Moreover, representatives of the LNA have already stated that “any Turkish facilities in Libya are considered as military targets”.
This statement was linked to the appearance of an unspecified number (from four to eight) of MiG-29s in the LNA’s location, which, according to the idea in Haftar’s headquarters, should change the course of hostilities, which is currently not in favor of the LNA. And now, it seems, the LNA’s threats have been put into practice.
However, first of all, we note that after the loss of the al-Watyya air base, the LNA continues to roll back to the East (although maintaining its position near Tripoli). Cities South of Garyan are moving to the side of the PNS. “Congresses” of local tribes, after a little thought, swear an oath to the government in Tripoli. These are the same people who recently publicly burned Turkish flags.
At the same time, the NTC troops claim that they are preparing an attack on Tarhuna – the main transport hub and supply center for Haftar’s troops remaining near Tripoli. The tripolitans are simply taking over the desert that was left unattended after the withdrawal of the LNA forces from the Western front. It’s exciting, but not deadly. The Turkish media applaud the “offensive on Mizda” (a city in the desert South of Garyan). Phrases like “the clean land of Libya will be freed from the weed”are used.
The LNA, in turn, is bombing bridges in Haryana. There are not exactly bridges (there are no rivers there – the desert), but modern transport interchanges with overpasses and complicated serpentines across several passes that remain from Gaddafi. If they can be destroyed, then all the efforts of the NTC to occupy desert cities like Alasaba, which are proudly spoken of in Tripoli, will simply be meaningless.
Under these circumstances, as is usual during such military operations, disinformation flourished on both sides. For example, Haftar’s headquarters claim that in 72 hours they shot down as many as 13 Turkish Bayraktar drones (five million dollars apiece). In the English-language version of this statement, a new word has even been invented – “uavsfall” (dronesfall). Some observers claim that this is due to the transition of the LNA to the use of “Buks” instead of “Shells”, which they stupidly squandered at al-Watyya.
Also fake was a video distributed by the Turkish media, which allegedly shows employees of the PMC “Wagner” boarding a plane at the Beni Walid airfield to leave Libya. Very quickly, the fake became more detailed – as the next media in the chain reprinted it. And now the Russian liberal media is rejoicing in full “Russia’s defeat in Libya”. In fact, it turned out that this video is two years old, and the plane belongs to the PNS.
But what really happened was a MiG-29 attack on two naval targets: Turkish transport near the port of Tripoli and on the Turkish military frigate in the open sea on the traverse of Sirte.
Turkish Navy warships appeared off the Libyan coast around January. Now there are two of them, and they are identified as the frigates Gabya 496 Gokova and 497 Goksu. These are old American frigates of the Oliver Hazard Perry class built in the mid-1970s (former USS Samuel Eliot Morison and USS Estocin, respectively), transferred to the Turks in 2002 and 2003. For Turkey, they were slightly upgraded for their own management system. Not the most terrible weapon available to the Turkish Navy – but Ankara seems to think that it will do for Libya.
By themselves, Turkish frigates do not cause much damage to the LNA. Their Tomahawks have long proved ineffective. On the other hand, there is an opinion that the Turkish frigates still have enough air defense to close the sky over Tripoli. The consequence of this was that the MiGs struck the first blow at sea targets.
With a significant degree of probability, we can say that the MiG-29 transport was hit. At least the black smoke was visible far away. According to Haftar’s people, this transport was transporting weapons for the NTC troops. At the same time, by the way, there are reports that two Turkish military transport planes delivered reinforcements from the Syrian fighters from the Idlib zone to Misrata.
However, the frigate most likely dodged the missile and put up a smoke screen. Satellite images show that there is no visible damage or fire on the Turkish ship after turning 90 degrees and exiting the smoke screen. At the same time, there is no reason to say that the plane that attacked the Turkish frigate was a “warning shot”. The frigate was in Libyan territorial waters. If they did not want to get into it with the purpose of sinking it, then they managed to drive it away for a while.
A side effect of the MiG attack on sea targets was a slight panic among the oil tankers that had accumulated near Tripoli and Misrata. Some of them withdrew and went out of harm’s way to the open sea, which seriously hit the plans of the Libyan oil company (LNK), which is controlled by the NTC.
Strategically, Haftar seeks not so much to fight for every village in the desert, but, first, to stop the supply of the enemy from Turkey, and secondly-to seriously increase the risks for the Turks. Now he dodged a rocket, but tomorrow he might not. The Turks are not as critical of losses as the Americans or Europeans, but relatively recent events in Idlib have shown that the loss of a large ship with casualties can be quite a sensitive blow. Already, Ankara is threatening haftar with terrible punishments if”at least one Turkish serviceman is injured.”
The ownership of the MiGs has not been established. Conspiracy theories continue to multiply. In Minsk, for example, some opposition sources are convinced that the planes are Belarusian, and the pilots may also be from Minsk, but it is assumed that they may be Serbs. No evidence is provided.
It is also unsubstantiated that Minsk has already done so, that is, “leased aircraft”. In the UAE, for example. Official Minsk does not react to such publications in principle. There is no interest in getting involved in skirmishes and Belgrade. On the other hand, this version takes Russia out of the spotlight. Neither the Turks nor the tripolitans have yet provided any evidence of the planes ‘ownership or the pilots’ citizenship.
Usually there are enough recordings of pilots ‘ conversations, but either they communicate by gestures, or the people of Saraj and the Turks are simply not ready to monitor the radio airwaves. In General, the story with the aircraft suddenly revealed that the PNS does not have any tracking tools and still can not understand where this incomplete squadron came from.
The reference to the Khmeimim air base (allegedly MiG-29s flew from there) was sucked out of reports that some time ago new Russian planes arrived there as part of a planned rotation. But they have flight numbers and they are manually counted by at least the Americans and Israelis. They can’t just disappear.
Israel in General is all studded with double-tracking radars, which are constantly ready within the framework of the “Dome” air defense system. They couldn’t even miss half the squadron. The only logical flight route in this context is really the “southern corridor”: from the UAE via Sudan and Egypt. But this is also not accurate. So the question of belonging to MiGs will be of interest to everyone for a long time.
So far, we are dealing with a classic UFO case. Perhaps the activity of Haftar’s air force will increase as the mysterious MiGs receive technical support. But in any case, they alone are not enough to turn the course of hostilities in favor of the LNA again. But they can seriously damage the nerves of the Turks.