Monday, 20 April 2015

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

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

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

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  1. And everybody was thinking technical with BMP-1 turret was "special"...

  2. GG truck suspension

  3. the old Libyan army had huge stocks of tanks and armored vehicles what happened to all of them? wouldn't it be wiser to try and restore a t-55 than make some crazy gun truck?

  4. Technicals are easier to maintain and operate.