Saturday, 25 April 2015

Libya Dawn going DIY: S-125 SAMs used as surface-to-surface missiles




A lack of spare parts for Libya's sophisticated weaponry has resulted in a number of interesting conversions by the Libyan National Army and Libya Dawn, both poised to get the edge over the other party. Recent examples of such conversions have included the installment of Oerlikon GDF naval guns on trucks by Libya Dawn and the installment of AK-230 naval guns on trucks by the Libyan National Army.

Libya Dawn, currently in control of Libya's captital Tripoli and other large cities like Misrata , inherited a large number of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) found in the vast swats of land it controls in the west of Libya. As there is little to no need to use the SAMs in their originally envisioned role, Libya Dawn began investigating the feasibility of turning some of the SAMs into surface-to-surface missiles. The militant group already gained experience with such conversions when they used several Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles, once equipping Libya's Su-24s, as unguided rockets near Tripoli.

In a quite surprising move, Libya Dawn transferred at least two complete S-125 SAM brigades along with associated misssiles and equipment to Tripoli in early December 2014 and in early March 2015.[1] [2] While the initial move behind these transfers remained unknown, images now reveal Libya Dawn has begun using the S-125s as surface-to-surface missiles.

The missiles, still installed on their (now mobile) original launcher, had their fins at the front removed for a more stable flight path in the unguided surface-to-surface role. More interestingly, the nose was lengthened, possibly to increase the size of the warhead. The original missile only packs a 60 kilograms heavy warhead, which is enough to heavily damage or destroy a potential aerial target but far too light for doing any substantial damage when used in the surface-to-surface role. The warhead might also have been replaced by a regular high explosive one, which is more effective than the original high explosive fragmentational warhead designed to wreck aircraft. Finally, it seems the proximity fuse usually associated with the system has been replaced by more appropriate ones for use against ground targets.


The conversion of SAMs to function in the surface-to-surface role by Libya Dawn is actually not a first in the world. Back in 1988, Iraq converted several S-125s to ballistic missiles with an intended range of 200 kilometers. The missile, called al-Barq, was modified to suit the surface-to-surface role by removing the features which enable the S-125 to be such a manoeuvrable missile: the missile's canards and the radio fuse in the warhead were removed, and the missile's self-destruct mechanism was disabled.

This conversion proved to be everything but easy as the S-125's warhead is part of the airframe, and was difficult to modify. Work on the missiles progressed slowly, and although several flight tests were indeed carried out, the achieved range totalled only 117 kilometres with a circular error probable (CEP) of several kilometres. Because of the unsatisfactory results, the project was subsequently terminated in 1990.


Obviously, it is highly implausible Libya Dawn could cobble something together from dusty leftover missiles that would manage to achieve the range or accuracy of even the failed al-Barq, meaning the field conversions likely suffer from both abysmally short range and crippling inaccuracy. However, with more than enough S-125s to scavenge and a civil war that does not appear to be going anywhere, conversions like these will undoubtedly continue.







Recommended Articles

Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles used as unguided rockets in Libya
The Libyan National Army going DIY: AK-230 naval guns mounted on trucks
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (1)
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (2)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Libya Dawn going DIY: Oerlikon GDF naval guns mounted on trucks


The Libyan National Army and Libya Dawn, entangled in a seemingly unending conflict, are both forced to look for creative solutions to provide their troops with the maximum amount of firepower required to gain the edge over each other. While the many arms depots present in Libya provided an impressive amount of sophisticated weaponry to the many forces now fighting for control over Libya, a lack of spare parts has meant that only a part of this equipment could enter service, with the majority cannibalised in order to keep a part of the fleet running.

The situation is only worsened by the arms embargo imposed on Libya, which officially prevents the acquisition of military equipment by the forces fighting in Libya. As arms embargoes are often little more than a few noneffectual words on a piece of paper, both Libya's Armed Forces and Libya Dawn do still receive some military equipment from their supporters abroad, but this flow of arms remains too small to give one or the other a decisive advantage on the ground.

This led to parties scrounging for whatever advanced weaponry could be found in Libya's arms depots and airbases. The most remarkable results of this were the use of Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles, originally destined for use by Libya's Su-24s, as unguided rockets by Libya Dawn and the installment of AK-230 naval guns on trucks by the Libyan National Army.

A similar project was initated by Libya Dawn around the same time the Libyan National Army completed its first truck armed with a naval gun. Libya Dawn managed to get its hands on numerous of such guns once equipping Libyan Navy frigates, corvettes and fast attack craft after capturing the depot the weaponry was stored in. Libya was unable to service all these vessels in the nineties because of the arms embargo, and eventually scrapped them all. The weaponry formerly equipping these ships was subsequently stored.

The 412 Wadi Mirah and her three sister ships were among the ships scrapped in the 90s, all having served just over ten years. Their 76mm OTO Melaras, 35mm Oerlikon GDFs, torpedo tubes, Otomat anti-ship missiles and associated fire-control systems were all stored.


This huge arsenal of stored naval weaponry not only included anti-ship missiles such as the Otomat Mk.1, Mk.2 and the Exocet, but also various types of naval guns such as the 76mm OTO Melara and 35mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns, in addition to a large array of Soviet-designed weaponry.

Much of this already obsolete Soviet-designed weaponry was stripped for spare parts to allow guns that were still installed on ships to continue service. The Western-designed naval guns, barely used in their short career, were still in prime condition however, yet were now rotting away with no apparant future use. The procurement plans of the Libyan Navy under Gaddafi mainly included Russian-designed ships which had no possibility to mount the stored Western weaponry, which effectively sealed their fate.

However, a part of the weaponry was brought out of storage by Libya Dawn in late 2014 for installment on trucks. These early conversions proved a success and work was initiated to convert more naval guns for land use.


The system under construction (seen in the header) donned a double-barreled 35mm Oerlikon GDF naval gun taken from the British-built frigate Dat Assawari, a ship that was also scrapped in the 90s. Half of the turret was cut away to allow for easier aiming and access to the guns and their munitions. Due to the relatively high calibre of the naval gun and the fact that the truck was not designed to be used in such a way, prolonged fire is likely not possible and stability would be best achieved if the gun were firing backwards as opposed to towards the sides.

The finished product included the muzzle brakes on the 35mm guns, but saw the entire turret removed. The minimal protection it provided apparantly did not weigh up against the increase  in stealth and situational awareness acquired when equipped with a (partial) turret.

Surprisingly, a truck belonging to Libya Dawn driving through Libya in early April carried one complete 76mm Oto Melara gun system, an empty 76mm Oto Melara turret and an empty 40mm DARDO close-in weapon system (CIWS) turret. Although one can only guess at the way these particular weapons systems will be converted for land-use, it clearly shows the parties in the conflict are gearing up for the long haul, and will go to great lengths to boost their weapon inventory.





Special thanks to Joseph Dempsey

Recommended Articles

Libya Dawn going DIY: S-125 SAMs used as surface-to-surface missiles
The Libyan National Army going DIY: AK-230 naval guns mounted on trucks
Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles used as unguided rockets in Libya
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (1)
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (2)

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Libyan Air Force, refurbishing its old Su-22 fighter-bombers? (2)



New images released by the Libyan Air Force provide an interesting glimpse of the current operational assests at al-Watiya airbase, but more importantly, also indicate that the Su-22 reportedly undergoing overhaul is not an Su-22 (S-32MK) as previously thought, but rather a more modern Su-22M instead. The news comes just as it's been confirmed that Libya Dawn now has one MiG-25PU operational, and is in the progress of bringing another three MiG-25s back to operational condition at Misrata.[1] [2]

Apart from this particular Su-22, still donning its green Jamahiriya roundel, and Libya Dawn's four MiG-25s, another icon once presumed to have found its final resting place is now being refurbished to fight once more: The Mirage F.1AD, one of which is currently also being restored by the Libyan Air Force at al-Watiya.[3] 

The Su-22M, undergoing overhaul in one of al-Watiya's forty-two remaining Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS), is one of the two reportedly being serviced in order to bring them back to operational condition. According to Libyan Air Force personnel present at al-Watiya, the first example was originally destined to fly in mid-February, but it seems that this claim was either overoptimistic, or that new problems arose during the overhaul.

According to Libyan Air Force Colonel Muhammad Abdul Hamid Al-Satni, this Su-22 is one of twelve remaining Su-22s present at al-Watiya.

''We … [inaudible] Su-22 aircraft, they were almost non-functional, but thanks to Libyan military personnel, all Libyans, no foreigners, we have been trying to put one or two of the ten to twelve aircraft back into service. This is the first one we managed to repair and it will be deployed in a week or ten days in the battle to liberate Tripoli.'' (3:44)

The Libyan National Army's push on Tripoli, which remains in the hands of Libya Dawn, is supported by just one MiG-23ML and one MiG-23UB operating out of al-Watiya, which itself was recaptured by the Libyan National Army on the 9th of August 2014. These airframes are currently engaged in a war of attrition with Libya Dawn as both sides continuously bomb each other's airbases and munition depots. Although this hasn't resulted in any air-to-air combat yet, one of Libya Dawn's MiG-23MLs crashed after bombing the airstrip of al-Zintan on the 23th of March 2015, leaving just one MiG-23ML operational. The Libyan Air Force currently has two MiG-23MLs operational: 6472 based at Benina and 6132 based at al-Watiya, the latter can be seen below.



The Libyan Air Force is thus desperately in need of more operational airframes to support the Libyan National Army in its push on Tripoli. The Libyan National Army encountered a huge stock of aircraft after recapturing al-Watiya, including at least one squadron of Su-22s (S-32MK), what was left of the Su-22M fleet, an unknown number of Mirage F.1s and Mi-25s. This airbase therefore provides an excellent source for aircraft, with plenty of aircraft to cannibalise for spare parts.

al-Watiya saw only three of its Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) housing Su-22Ms in addition to several munition depots being destroyed by the NATO-led airstrikes during the Libyan Civil War. Other aircraft present on the base were inoperational and thus not considered a threat to the Libyan people and NATO. The aircraft currently being refurbished is in good hands with the Libyan Air Force's experienced mechanics, however, because of the fact that the airframe has been grounded for over a decade (and even lacks its 30mm cannons and ejection seat), it will surely prove to be a challenge to get it operational.


However, if they manage to pull it off the aircraft will indubitably be of great value during any upcoming offensive to recapture Tripoli. Wether it will be enough to tip the scales and give the LNA operational advantage over its foes only time will tell.

Recommended Articles

The Libyan Air Force, refurbishing its old Su-22 fighter-bombers? (1)
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (1)
Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (2)
Libya's Mirage F.1AD fighter-bombers, back from the grave? 
Is Egypt providing aircraft and helicopters to the Libyan Air Force?
Further Egyptian MiG-21 deliveries to the Libyan Air Force

Friday, 10 April 2015

Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (2)



After recent satellite imagery confirmed that Libya Dawn has recently gotten at least one MiG-25 operational, or was in the progress of making it operational, a picture of the aircraft in question has now finally surfaced. In addition to this, satellite imagery confirms that Libya Dawn is working on making at least three other MiG-25s operational at Misrata. While previous analysis predicted Libya Dawn was likely to pick one of the ubiquitous MiG-25RB(T) or MiG-25PD(S) aircraft, the former of which can be equipped with multiple ejector racks (MERs) for carrying up to eight FAB-500Ts and the latter of which can carry R-40 and R-60 air-to-air missiles (AAMs), it now appears they instead went for one MiG-25PU twin-seat conversion trainer for the MiG-25PD(S).

The MiG-25PU by design has no radar or combat capabilities, and therefore seems like an odd choice for Libya Dawn's engineers to say the least. However, as the MiG-25PU's intended role is to prepare pilots to fly the MiG-25PD(S), it features two seats instead of one (one for the pilot and one for the instructor), resulting in an additional pair of eyes in the sky. It is also likely that the twin-seat conversion trainers are generally found in the best condition, and have flown the least number of flight hours of all MiG-25 variants formerly in Libyan service. The new twin-seater aircraft will not be the only trainer variant of their tiny fleet, which also features at least two Soko G-2 Galebs and several L-39s and is soon to be enlarged with one MiG-23UB and two Soko G-2 Galebs, all of which are twin-seater aircraft.

The newly overhauled aircraft seems to have only one pylon on each side (despite being originally outfitted with two), carrying just a single FAB-500T for a total of two of the 500kg general purpose bombs, limiting the operational capabilities of the aircraft. However, the main problem it may face during bombing runs arises from the terrible accuracy usually associated with MiG-25 bombers, which was partially countered for MiG-25RBs outfitted for bombing runs by linking the navigation system with a bombing computer (also, as the MiG-25RB was originally supposed to deliver nuclear weapons only, accuracy wasn't of too great importance).

Satellite imagery of Misrata airbase, previously showing just one MiG-25 on the 31th of January 2015, now depicts no less than three MiG-25s on the 28th of February 2015. All the aircraft are believed to have been taken from al-Jufra, which housed the largest amount of MiG-25s when the type was still in active service. When the MiG-25's career in Libya ended in the 2003-2004 timeframe, most of the airframes remained stored in good condition in their Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS), and were thus well protected against the relentless sun.


The aircraft formerly seen at Misrata was believed to have switched bases and was seen on the 24th of February at Mitiga. It was again seen on the 25th of March 2015 along with another example. This particular example is likely placed here as a decoy, and was previously seen stored on another part of the airbase.







The overhaul of these aircraft is conducted by a team of foreign experts and local mechanics, but with an increased amount of MiG-25s becoming operational, Libya Dawn might have to rely on more foreign expertise to keep the fleet of aircraft running. Although Libya Dawn can count on a number of former Libyan MiG-25 mechanics and pilots, it is unknown if it can continue to find enough pilots to fly the MiG-25s.

As was mentioned in the first article on the subject, the nationality of the foreign experts cannot be confirmed. However, the sudden presence of a number of Ukrainians at Mitiga and Misrata makes it highly likely they are the ones responsible for the sudden appearance of operational MiG-25s

With little other types available, reintroducing MiG-25s to the Libyan theatre will have to make do for Libya Dawn, and will surely provide them with an extremely powerful aircraft, albeit with severely limited accuracy. Thanks to the aid of Ukrainian personnel and financial funding from some of Libya Dawn's international supporters, more MiG-25s will surely roar through North Africa's skies once again.

Recommended Articles

Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (1)
Libya's Mirage F.1AD fighter-bombers, back from the grave? 
The Libyan Air Force, refurbishing its old Su-22 fighter-bombers?
Is Egypt providing aircraft and helicopters to the Libyan Air Force?
Further Egyptian MiG-21 deliveries to the Libyan Air Force

Monday, 6 April 2015

Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (1)

Satellite imagery of Misrata and Mitiga airbase confirm that Libya Dawn has recently gotten at least one MiG-25 operational, or is in the progress of making it operational. Although it is still unknown if the example is of the interceptor variant or reconnaissance-bomber variant, it confirms the longstanding rumour that Libya Dawn was indeed working on restoring one of Libya's mighty Foxbats. This news comes just as it has been confirmed that the Libyan Air Force is now working on making at least one Mirage F.1AD fighter-bomber operational.

Libya Dawn, fighting for Libya's unrecognised parliament currently residing in the capital of Tripoli, is in terms of personnel and equipment the second-strongest force currently fighting in Libya. The most powerful force remains the Libyan National Army (LNA), fighting for Libya's internationally recognsed government residing in Tobruk. A strange situation inherited from what was originally a political problem. But with no political or military solution in sight, this situation will likely continue for quite some time to come.

Libya Dawn is in control of a vast amount of land in Libya, including Libya's capital Tripoli and large cities like Misrata and parts of Benghazi. It also controls Tripoli International Airport and strategically important airbases such as Mitiga, Misrata and al-Jufra, the last of these housing a large part of Libya's now decommissioned MiG-25 fleet and all of Libya's decommissioned Tu-22 bombers. Thanks to the aircraft and equipment found on these airbases, Libya Dawn succeeded in establishing their very own air force consisting of at least two Soko G-2 Galebs, one J-21 Jastreb, a couple of L-39s and two MiG-23MLDs in addition to several Il-76s, SF-260s and a small number of helicopters. Libya Dawn is currently also working on bringing one MiG-23UB and two Soko G-2 Galebs operational at Mitiga, with more airframes likely to follow.

One of the MiG-23MLDs operating out of Misrata crashed shortly after bombing the airstrip of al-Zintan on the 23th of March 2015, with its pilot KIA. This was the first loss for Libya Dawn's air force, but obviously had a large impact considering the small size of the fleet they'd gotten operational. Surprisingly, it now turns out this fleet also includes at least one MiG-25 that has only recently been restored. Libya Dawn already claimed to have been working on a MiG-25 at Misrata several months ago, but it is only now that the aircraft appeared on satellite imagery.[1] It first makes an appearance on the 31th of January 2015 at Misrata, and it was seen for a second time on the 24th of February at Mitiga. It is likely that this is actually the same aircraft that's simply switched bases, which is also common practice with Libya Dawn's MiG-23s.







Although Mitiga once housed active MiG-25s, all squadrons flying the type ceased operations around 2003, when the large stock of spare parts for the type had run out. Mitiga's resident 1035 Squadron was one of the last to continue flying the type, and only ceased operations in 2004. Its aircraft remain stored on the Southern part of the airbase.

The largest amount of MiG-25s was located at Al-Jufra, with 1005 Squadron and 1025 Squadron being stationed here. As al-Jufra is located in the dry desert, the aircraft stationed here are generally in a much better condition than those found in Mitiga, which are fully exposed to the salty air of the Mediterranean sea just two kilometers away.

Although none of the MiG-25s were destined to ever return to Libya's skies and as a result were not serviced anymore, most of the airframes stored at al-Jufra were left in their Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS), and were thus pretty well protected against the elements. The eleven aircraft that can be found outside are in the worst condition, and their green Jamahiriya roundel and flag, anti-glare panel and serial number are now slowly fading away under the relentless sun.



Recent imagery of al-Jufra showed that four MiG-25s had been towed out of their shelters at the Southern part of the airbase, indicating that the airframes were being examined to see if they could be overhauled. Unfortunately, no new imagery of the Northern part of the airbase was released, and thus it remains unknown if the same happened here.


The MiG-25 in the best condition was subsequently picked out and either overhauled at al-Jufra or more likely, flown to Misrata onboard an Il-76 to be overhauled there. The overhaul was conducted by a team of foreign experts and local mechanics, which allowed the aircraft to fly its first sortie on the 11th of February 2015, likely piloted by a former Libyan MiG-25 pilot. Although the nationality of the foreign experts cannot be confirmed independently, the sudden presence of a number of Ukrainians at Mitiga and Misrata leaves little doubt on the matter. The presence of Sudanese mechanics at Misrata was also reported, but this might have been related to the overhaul of other airframes instead.

Although it remains unknown if the MiG-25 is of the interceptor variant or the reconnaissance-bomber variant, one would expect Libya Dawn has chosen for the latter. When equipped with multiple ejector racks (MERs), the reconnaissance configured MiG-25RB(T) can be turned into a bomber armed with up to eight FAB-500Ts, albeit suffering from extremely bad accuracy. Although there is no evidence that Libya ever received MERs, these racks could easily have been acquired from the Ukraine.

As al-Jufra was home to all of Libya's Tu-22s, flown by 1022 Squadron, Libya Dawn can count on a large stock of bombs originally destined for use by the Tu-22s. This large stockpile is littered around the airbase seemingly at random, and considering the current status of Libya it seems unlikely they will be properly disposed of any time soon.



The MiG-25PD(S) interceptor would make use of R-40 and R-60 air-to-air missiles, which were acquired by Libya in the late seventies and early eighties and ran out of shelf life decades ago. Although this doesn't mean all of the missiles are completely unusable, it could seriously hamper their performance.

The NATO-led coalition was apparently afraid that some of al-Jufra based MiG-25s were in a good enough condition to return to the sky in 2011, and several munition depots housing the MiG-25's air-to-air missiles were destroyed in preemptive strikes. This was easier than targeting all the Hardened Aircraft Shelters housing the MiG-25s, which would have been an expensive endeavour. As a result of the violent explosions, R-40 missiles were scattered across the base, leaving a minefield of unexploded ordnance in their wake.




So if the now active MiG-25 would be of the interceptor variant, it would have to draw its missiles from the stocks formerly used by 1035 Squadron based at Mitiga, which faces the same shelf life problem as the missiles seen elsewhere in Libya.

It is thus far more likely that the aircaft in question is an MiG-25RB(T), which can be used for reconnaissance and bombing sorties. Although the accuracy leaves much to desire, it will enable Libya Dawn to strike large targets like oilfields and airports while high above the range of MANPADS. With a large pool of airframes available at al-Jufra and Mitiga and the involvement of foreign experts, the MiG-25's career in Libya might be far from over. Depending on the condition of the airframes and Libya Dawn's ability to find enough technical personnel and pilots to operate MiG-25s, more Foxbats might let out their mighty roar above Libya's skies once again.

Recommended Articles

Libya's MiG-25s, the mighty Foxbats fly again (2)
Libya's Mirage F.1AD fighter-bombers, back from the grave?
The Libyan Air Force, refurbishing its old Su-22 fighter-bombers?
Is Egypt providing aircraft and helicopters to the Libyan Air Force?
Further Egyptian MiG-21 deliveries to the Libyan Air Force

Monday, 30 March 2015

Sudan's commitment to Operation Decisive Storm, navigating the restless Middle Eastern political landscape






Sudan's commitment to the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm, aimed at regaining stability in Yemen and bringing the internationally recognised government of President Hadi back to power, perfectly represents the current foreign policy of the Sudanese government. Sudan floats somewhere in between being Iran's major ally in Africa, and the other end of the spectrum where it is trying to present itself as an ally of Gulf countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, in a bid to get not too distanced from these economically important countries. A difficult political game to play, especially so in the increasingly restless Middle Eastern landscape.

Sudan can be seen as Iran's most trustworthy ally in Africa, and probably one of its most important allies in the whole world. Sudan first opened its arms for Iranian economic and military aid in the late eighties, and both countries continue to enjoy a warm relationship, which expresses itself mainly in the form of military cooperation nowadays. This close relationship between the two countries has been a source of much worry to Saudi Arabia.

Sudan has always denied the presence of any Iranian military advisors in the country, and continued this policy on an official visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2014. A leaked audio-recording of a high level meeting between the Sudanese Minister of Defence and several generals in September 2014 revealed that Iranians not only serve as advisors to the Sudanese Armed Forces, but are in fact mainly concerned with trafficking arms throughout Africa and the Middle East, with most of the weaponry destined for Hamas and Libya Dawn.[1] [2]

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Sudan take care of the weapons shipments from the point they arrive in Sudan until they travel to Gaza via Egypt. Sudan functions as a middle man here, as they allow the shipments to arrive and agree to see them transported over Sudanese soil. A number of past Israeli raids on ships transporting the weapons to Sudan and on convoys and storage depots inside Sudan thus comes as no surprise.

But an unexpected recipient of some of the arms makes the whole situation even more complicated, as Sudan reportedly also provided arms to the Houthis in Yemen, the exact same forces it is targeting now as a part of Operation Decisive Storm.




The following was said by the Sudanese Minister of Defence, Abdul-Rahim Mohamed Hussein:

''We have a problem with Saudi Arabia because they found out about the weapons we sent by way of the Red Sea to Abd al-Malik Al-Houthi’s Shia group in Yemen,” said Major General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed in the meeting.''

The leaked audi-recording also covers Sudan's relationship with Iran in detail:

''I shall start with our relationship with Iran and say it is a strategic and everlasting relationship. We cannot compromise or lose it.

...

They opened the doors of their stores of weapons for us, at a time the Arabs stood against us. The Iranian support came when we were fighting a rebellion that spread in all directions. The Iranians provided us with experts and they trained our Military Intelligence and soldiers. 

...

There is one full battalion of the Republican Guard still with us here and other experts who are constructing interception and spying bases in order to protect us, plus an advanced Air Defence system.''

The military officials agreed to ''maintain good relations with the Gulf States in principle, yet work strategically with Iran, in total secrecy and on a limited scale, through the Military Intelligence and security.'' General Siddiq Amer stated: ''We will not sacrifice our relations with the Islamists and Iran for a relationship with the Saudis and the Gulf States. What is possible is a relationship that serves our mutual economic interests in terms of investment and employment. We must have a foothold in both camps.''

Another perfect example of this complicated foreign policy was the sale of man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and ammunition to Qatar, which subsequently delivered them to Syrian rebels via Turkey. This while Sudan's longtime ally Iran is the primary reason the regime of Bashar al-Assad is still in power, and even supplied Su-22 fighter-bombers to the Syrian Arab Air Force.

Back to Operation Decisive Storm, which now also includes a contingent of four Sudanese Air Force (SuAF) aircraft based at the massive King Khalid airbase. The aircraft (one of them seen in the header), likely totaling four Su-24Ms, were put under the command of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). Sudan also pledged to deploy 6.000 troops to Saudi Arabia for a possible ground invasion of Yemen.

Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan stated the following:

''Sudan expresses unlimited support to the coalition supporting the legitimacy and confirms its active participation on the ground amongst the coalition forces in order to maintain peace and stability in the region''

Colonel Al-Sawarmy Khaled Saad, spokesman of the Sudanese Armed Forces said the goal of the operation was ''protecting Islamic holy sites and protecting the region''.

Claims that one the Sudanese aircraft was shot down during one of their operations over Yemen turned out to be false, the supposed pictures of the wreckage of the SuAF Su-24 actually displaying pieces of a destroyed Yemeni S-75 surface-to-air missile instead. The image showing the captured 'Sudanese pilot' reveals a person not reminiscent of any Sudanese, and the faint smile on his face failed to make the situation look any more convincing.

As it remains unknown if Sudan acquired any guided air-to ground weaponry for its Su-24Ms, or if its pilots are trained to use them, it is likely that the Su-24s will only be used when large targets of opportunity present themselves, or when the chance of collateral damage is minimal. The integration of Soviet-built aircraft into the Saudi-led coalition, which flies Western-made planes exclusively, would also be extremely difficult.

Yet it could also be that none of the Su-24s will see action, and that the move to deploy them in Saudi Arabia is purely politically motivated. Sudan thus carefully tries to balance its loyalty between the Gulf countries and Iran. During Operation Decisive Storm, Sudan chose to follow the other Arab countries in joining the Saudi-led Coaltion, and while it might have not been persuaded by Saudi Arabia to do so, the possibility of economic exclusion, sanctions and expulsion of the around three million Sudanese expats working in the Gulf countries was an important consideration, and likely the reason behind Sudan's decision to participate.

Recommended Articles

Is the Saudi-led coalition sparing the Yemeni Air Force? 
Saudi aircraft pound al-Dailami airbase, destroying U.S. delivered aircraft
Saudi aircraft demolish Yemeni ballistic missile site

Is the Saudi-led coalition sparing the Yemeni Air Force?

Although several news outlets and even a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition were quick to report on the total destruction of the Yemeni Air Force (Y.A.F.) by the coalition's airstrikes, it now appears that the series of attacks on Yemen's airbases were never aimed at neutralising the Yemeni Air Force, but rather to serve as a warning to the Y.A.F. not to enter the conflict on behalf of the Houthis instead.

The first raid on al-Dailami airbase, which shares the runway with Sana'a International Airport, saw the runway and a hangar housing one CN-235, one Beechcraft Super King Air, one AB-412 and one UH-1H destroyed, not the most important assets of the Yemeni Air Force to say the least.[1] On the contrary, these four aircraft had already been stored as the Y.A.F. was dependent on Saudi Arabia and the U.S. for spare parts, which now refused to deliver them out of fear the Y.A.F.'s assets would end up serving the Houthis' goals. The other U.S.-designed products still in service with the Yemeni Air Force, such as the F-5Es, were on their last legs due to a lack of newly delivered spare parts, and had to be cannibalised to keep at least a part of the fleet running.

This first attack could thus be seen as a warning to the Y.A.F. not to participate in the conflict, and to remain dormant at its airbases instead. If Hadi returns to his post, he will surely need the air force as a tool to strike numerous pockets of resistance in a country in chaos. This could mean the Saudi-led coalition will want to spare the Y.A.F.'s precious airframes as much as possible while simultaniously preventing they enter the war on the Houthis' behalf.



The runway was repaired within a day after the initial strike however, which made it possible for the Yemeni Air Force to take off again. In reply to the Houthis' decision to repair the runway and the fact that the Y.A.F. still continues to move its assets around the airbase, making it look as though they're gearing up for a fight, a second raid was flown against al-Dailami. This raid, flown on the 29th of March 2015, saw Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) fighter-bombers targeting eleven adjacent shelters designated to house the pride of the Yemeni Air Force: Its MiG-29s. Footage of the raid (2:09) can be seen below.

video

However, the image showing the freshly repaired runway of al-Dailami indicates at least six of the shelters were empty instead of housing MiG-29s. Yemen's MiG-29s, numbering just under 20 airframes, are divided between their main hub al-Dailami airbase and al-Anab (al-Anad) airbase, which sees a permanent detachment of a couple of MiG-29s. This means that not all of the aircraft shelters on the MiG-29 part of al-Dailami airbase are actually occupied by MiG-29s.

The Y.A.F. has experienced increased problems with keeping their fleet of aircraft operational; especially the highly sophisticated MiG-29s have suffered due to a lack of funding and maintenance. A mass exodus of personnel not interested in serving Yemen on behalf of the Houthis put a bigger strain on the already fragile Y.A.F. In 2013 only a part of the fleet remained operational, with the others stored in the hangar where they usually receive maintenance, meaning only a part of the twenty shelters were actually housing aircraft. It is likely that the targeted shelters were in fact not housing any aircaft, but that the MiG-29s were instead housed here.

The second raid should thus again be interpreted as a warning seeing as it has clearly been proven by now that the Saudi-led coalition is able to strike any target they deem necessary, but still these targets haven't included Yemen's combat aircraft and helicopters yet.

A spokesman of the Saudi-led coaltion had the following to say about the last raid:

''Through our constant reconnaissance of Yemen’s territory, we knew that the Houthis moved some aircraft to an airbase outside Sanaa. We targeted them in the past 24 hours and they were completely destroyed as is shown in the video.''

This statement likely acts as a cover for the real intentions of the Saudi-led coaltion, which is to save the Yemeni Air Force from total destruction for possible use in future scenarios. This theory is strengthened by the fact that the Y.A.F.'s assets are still intact, and that the Houthis have no problem showing just that.













As the Yemeni Air Force remains spared by the Saudi-led coalition, it might be set to play a role in regaining stability in Yemen. If the Y.A.F. and the Houthis are prepared to play along remains to be seen.

Recommended Articles

Saudi aircraft pound al-Dailami airbase, destroying U.S. delivered aircraft
Sudan's commitment to Operation Decisive Storm, navigating the restless Middle Eastern political landscape
Saudi aircraft demolish Yemeni ballistic missile site