Monday, 13 July 2015

Libya Dawn going DIY: S-125 SAMs used as surface-to-surface missiles and mounted on T-62 tanks

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The ever demanding combat environment of the Libyan battlefield has forced parties on all sides to resort to using their creativity to find new use for once abandoned and neglected systems, and in so doing spawned a host of interesting contraptions already, such as those that resulted from the Libyan National Army and Libya Dawn mounting AK-230 and Oerlikon GDF naval cannons on trucks. As the conflict still appears to be far from reaching a conclusion, such DIY continue to see the light of day, as is witnessed by the inception of another improvised mobile surface-to-surface missile system by Libya Dawn.

Libya Dawn, which has put effort into adapting S-125 SAMs to do the same from towed launchers in April this year, now appears to have continued this path of development, despite little positive results on the capabilities of these systems. The new mobile system, using a T-62 Model 1972 as Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) as a basis and a single modified S-125 mounted on top of the cupola as its main ordnance.

In control of Libya's capital Tripoli as well as Misrata, Libya Dawn is the largest operator of T-62s in Libya, having used the tanks in various battles, including those near Tripoli. The mainstay of Libya's T-62 fleet was operated by the Hamza battalion in Misrata before the revolution, during which the base it was operating from was struck by the NATO-led coalition. It now provides Libya Dawn with tens of T-62s in operational condition and a host of others in various states of decay that can be cannibalised for spare parts.

As could be observed from photos of Libya Dawn's previous projects to convert S-125 SAMs to the surface-to-surface role, the frontal fins have been removed in an attempt to increase the stability of the missile during its unguided flight. Similarly, the nosecone was lenthened, possibly to increase the payload (which ordinarily is just 60 kilograms) or to swap the standard high explosive fragmentational warhead designed to wreck aircraft for a more conventional high explosive one. While not easily discernible in the new imagery, it is likely the standard proximity fuse has once again been replaced with one designed for surface-to-surface use.

Libya Dawn is not the first to meddle with converting surface-to-air missiles for other roles; Ba'athist Iraq experimented with the same concept near the end of the Iran-Iraq War, with unsatisfactory results. More on this project can be read here.

The conversion of S-125s to the surface-to-surface role will, despite being placed on a mobile launcher, remain of limited value, and rather serves a psychological purpose than a tactical one.

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  1. Are they really that desperate considering how small the warhead is?

  2. why ruin a tank with some ridiculous useless missile. the tanks main gun is worth a heck of a lot more on the battlefield then one modified SAM.

  3. Last time I saw similar configuration was Korean comic book from the nineties.

  4. I think this serves more of a case study of the shortage of arms for Libya Dawn, rather than anything else. It's just pure desparation.

    Overall, Haftar's forces are much better equipped, not least due to the support of nearly any surrounding country. Even the Islamists' only supporter, Sudan, is now segregated from Libya Dawn which effectivelly controls Tripolitania.

    Libya is actually a much more optimistic exmaple of the process undergone by the Middle East. It seperated into it's three main districts: Fezzan, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, with the later still controled by secular forces with a good hold of it and with some forces in Tripolitania.

    It is not far fetched for Haftar (who is the real man in charge) to manage and take back Tripoli by force!

    1. Actually not, instead, this case serves as a perfect example that they in fact have too many!

      Libya Dawn is supported by Qatar, Turkey, Sudan and a bunch of hired Ukrainians, which helped Dawn's air force to bring several MiG-23s, MiG-25s and L-39s back to operational condition.

  5. The utter chaos in Libya shows no signs of ending - and the reason is there was never a popular uprising in Libya as in Tunisia or Egypt. In reality - despite the western media stories - Libya was simply invaded by foreign backed takfiri militants, under cover of Arab Spring, who would have failed to win without NATO (mostly French) air support to knock out Libyan military targets.
    Result is chaos because was never a coherent opposition or internal force - it was sudden foreign backed forces that created sudden power vacuum and are bitterly contesting the spoils of the state.

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