Libya: are Turkish drones changing the military balance?

A hangar at al-Watiya air base taken over from ANL forces by GNA forces following air strikes on May 18, 2020. REUTERS / Hazem Ahmed

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The forces of the Government of National Unity (GNA) supported by Turkey have been able to make significant advances on the ground mainly thanks to their air superiority. In recent weeks, they have captured several cities, until then in the hands of their adversary Khalifa Haftar, in western Libya. Two of these cities are considered strategic for the Libyan National Army (ANL) forced, under the blows of these strikes, to withdraw from the strategic military base of al-Watiya.


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Before evacuating the al-Watiya military base, the ANL suffered more than 65 air strikes . The base chief and deputy chief were targeted. On this immense, open terrain, it was then very difficult for the ANL to resist, especially with the loss of several Russian anti-aircraft defense systems Pantsir 2, targeted by Turkish drones of the new generation (Bayraktar 2 ).

In an operation center near Sirte, in al-Wouchka near Misrata, as well as elsewhere in western Libya, more than forty ANL leaders were targeted. Currently, the strikes focus on the city of Tarhouna, 60 km southeast of Tripoli, the next goal of the GNA. According to the ANL, a hundred Turkish drones have been shot down, but others are still crisscrossing the Libyan skies. Fourteen more have been since Thursday.

GNA announces " phase 2 "

On the strength of their recent advance, the GNA, supported by Turkish strategists, announced that they would soon move on to phase 2 of the operations and that the ANL military bases like al-Jofra in the south, and Benghazi in the east, would soon be targeted. 

On May 9, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army warned that four military aircraft, including Mig 29s and Mirages, which had been out of service for years, had been repaired and were ready to serve, which he said would affect on the future of fighting. For his part, Sakr el-Jarouchi, the head of the Air Force of the ANL promised that "  the Air Force will soon carry out the largest military air operation in the history of Libya  " .

Last Thursday, Fathi Bachagha, the Interior Minister of the GNA, said that Russia had sent 8 military planes from Syria to the ANL, including Mig 29 and Sukhoi 24. Information impossible to verify from a source independent. There is no reaction to this either from Russia or the ANL.

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  • Libya
  • Turkey

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