Alternative Insight

The Bombing of Libya
Part I - A Historical Narrative-From the Russian archives

Secret - Classified Material!

from Air Force Marshall Koldunov
on Issues related to
"US Aggression against LIBYA"

Air Force Marshall Koldunov reported that it was not until 20 April 1986 that a group of Soviet specialists were permitted to travel to LIBYA to study on-site the US acts of aggression and the countermeasures taken by the Libyan military. Currently the only information available is from the Soviet specialists who were employed in the Libyan military air defense units.

LIBYA has acquired a great deal of modem technology from the Soviet Union, including:

Thus, LIBYA's air defense alone has more than 300 launch pads for various anti-aircraft missile systems. In addition, there are a large number of Soviet "KUB" and "OSA-AK" antiaircraft missiles systems and French "CROTALE 11" antiaircraft missile systems in the LIBYAN ground forces.

The following air defenses cover TRIPOLI, the capital:

American aircraft operating from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean were testing LIBYA's air defenses as early as the end of March.

A first group of three aircraft flew into Libyan airspace from the sea at about 1200[hours] on 24 March 1986.

Qadhaffi then ordered that the "VEGA" antiaircraft missile system be used. Two missiles were launched against the target at a range of 105 km and the target disappeared from the monitor.

The American search and rescue helicopters employed immediately thereafter proved that the target had been destroyed.

The approach of a second group of two aircraft was detected in the evening at about 1800 [hours].

After more precise analysis and more objective examination, Soviet specialists determined that three aircraft had been shot down.

The Soviet Union reported as early as 13 April 1986 that a possible air attack on LIBYA was imminent based on the concentration of the carrier group in the Mediterranean and on other intelligence information.

The Libyans were encouraged to declare "heightened combat readiness" for its military and "full combat readiness" for national air defense forces and resources. Qadhaffi and the leadership of the Libyan army did not take this warning seriously and did not respond to it.

F- I I I fighter bombers flying out of ENGLAND conducted the 1st air attack at 03:35 on 15 April 1986.

The air attack on the capital of TRIPOLI did not come from the sea, that is, it did not come from the MEDITERRANEAN, but from the south across the desert at an altitude of approx. 50 m._

At the same time, aircraft carriers operating in the MEDITERRANEAN launched a arge number of unmanned aircraft (drones), which threw Libyan radar reconnaissance into an extremely difficult position.

After the unmanned aircraft were employed, the fighter bombers took off from the aircraft carriers at an altitude of 50 to 70 m while heavy radar jamming was employed.

The first strikes were directed entirely at the air defense system, especially radar stations and "VEGA" antiaircraft missile control centers.

Libya claims that a total of 20 aircraft were shot down during the last two attacks However, objective examination by Soviet specialists determined that a total of only 10 aircraft were shot down.

A few of these crashed into the ground, but most of the aircraft went down over the MEDITERRANEAN.

It was very difficult to use the "VEGA" anti-aircraft system during these attacks because the aircraft approached at very low altitudes (50 m.).

Qadhaffi ordered that the fighters not be used, he prohibited them from taking off; these aircraft include more than 300 fighters, of which 80 alone are MiG-25s.

The attitude on Soviet technology is characterized in that, for instance, all French "Mirage" aircraft are always carefully covered and maintained.

On the other hand, the modem Soviet MiG-25 aircraft are continuously exposed to inclement weather, which has a negative impact on their continuous combat readiness under actual meteorological conditions.

The American aviation forces used a great number of "HARM" anti-radiation -missiles launched from aircraft at a range of 130 km from the target. However, they had only a minor effect because 15 of the 30 missiles used did not reach their targets.
The "Paveway" laser-guided bomb, used for the first time, was launched 60 km from the target.
In addition, "Bullpup" missiles with laser targeting devices were used; 30 to 40% of these did not detonate.

As a result of the employment of the above munitions, a total of five Libyan national air defense antiaircraft missile units were lost, specifically:

Air Force Marshall Koldunov cited as reasons for the limited effectiveness of the Libyan air defenses, in that only 10 of the 70 aircraft that were used were destroyed:

1. Poor command and control of LIBYA's air defense forces and weapons, lack of a clear mission, and poor interaction.
2. Poor political perspective/morale among the crews and personnel manning the radar stations, missile control stations, and antiaircraft missile complexes.
Cowardice among some of the crews, who fled their positions in panic during the air attacks.
3. Insufficient level of training among air defense forces and consequently poor mastery of modem Soviet technology.
4. Inadequate organization of radar reconnaissance over the MEDITERRANEAN. Minimum acquisition altitude of radar field was only 250 to 300 m.
This meant that the extremely low- flying American aircraft were not acquired as targets.

(Due to its own arrogance, the Libyan military did not act on requests and recommendations put forth by Soviet specialists to organize the radar field so that it would be possible to acquire targets at altitudes of 50 m. and greater).

5. LIBYA's fighters were not used to engage and destroy the intruding aircraft.

In conclusion, Air Force Marshall Koldunov stressed that there would be a thorough evaluation of the military aspects of the US aggression against LIBYA pending the return of the group of Soviet specialists that had been sent to LIBYA on 20 April 1986.

The information collected and lessons learned from this evaluation will be provided to the Ministers of Defense for the Warsaw Pact nations.

[Published by the PHP http-// 5/docs/Libya 1986pdf.
Translatedfrom the original German by Grace Leonard for the Cold War International History Project.]

16, 2002