TRIPOLI ($1=4.92 Libyan Dinars) — An MQ-9 Reaper ER reconnaissance drone was shot down over Libya after it entered the country’s airspace. According to Turkish sources, the drone belongs to the US Air Force in Europe.
The MQ-9 Reaper ER was intercepted by the air defense of the Libyan National Army [LNA], led by General Khalifa Haftar. The drone was shot down in the area above Benghazi. The LNA has ground-based air defense systems of Soviet or Russian design. 9K33 Osa, C-200, Pantsir-C1, SA-8b Gecko, and Strela-10 are part of the inventory of the LNA. According to observers and experts, either Pantsir-C1 or 9K33 Osa shot down the MQ-9 Reaper ER.
The LNA has already announced that there were two missiles on board the downed MQ-9 Reaper ER but did not specify their model. The drone most likely belongs to the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron of the US Air Force based at Sigonella Air Force Base in Italy. This squadron is part of the 319th US Naval Intelligence Wing in Europe.
The 319th Reconnaissance Wing, which is part of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa [USAFE-AFAFRICA], in addition to the MQ-9 Reaper ER, also has the RQ-4B Global Hawk in its inventory. The 319th Reconnaissance Wing frequently flies reconnaissance, surveillance, and offensive missions over Libya.
MQ-9 Reaper ER
In the US, it is in service with the Air Force, NASA, and the U.S. Homeland Security. Other operators around the world are France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, India, Spain, Morocco, Taiwan, Japan, etc. Finland and Poland have inquired about purchasing the MQ-9 Reaper and are considered future operators of the drone.
The ER version has a longer range and a longer wing than the base version. The drone is powered by one Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop, 900 hp [671 kW] with Digital Electronic Engine Control [DEEC]. Its top speed is 300 mph [482 km/h, 260 kn], while its cruising speed is 194 mph [313 km/h, 169 kn]. The operational range of the base version is 1,200 mi [1,900 km, 1,000 nmi] and it can stay in the air for at least 14 hours.
Its primary function is reconnaissance and offensive missions, but it can be armed. It has 7 hardpoints where weapon stations can be deployed. It is most often armed with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. It can carry up to four of these types of missile. It can additionally be equipped with two 500 lb [230 kg] GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
Libyan civil war
Having ruled the country since 1969, Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in the 2011 civil war. As a result, the country found itself in a situation of dual power: in the east, a parliament is sitting in Tobruk, supported by the Libyan national army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and in the west, in Tripoli, a government of national accord.
In Libya, armed clashes are currently taking place between supporters of different leaders. The country is led by the Government of National Accord [GNA], headed by Prime Minister Fayez Saraj, the “eastern government” led by Abdullah Abdurrahaman at-Thani. The eastern government is supported by the commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.
Recall that January 13, 2020 in Moscow, negotiations were held between the heads of the Libyan National Army [LNA] Khalif Haftar and the Government of National Accord [GNA] Faiz Sarraj. Also present were members of the Foreign Ministries of Russia and Turkey.
On the meeting the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, has notified Russia about the conditions for continuing negotiations on the signing of a peace agreement in Libya. According to the requirements of Haftar, the militias operating in Libya are required to surrender weapons in the period from 45 to 90 days. This process should be controlled by a special commission created by the LNA together with the UN.
Haftar also refused to recognize Turkey as an intermediary in resolving the situation in Libya, since the Turkish side is not neutral and supports the Government of National Accord [GNA].
At the same time, the GNA is actively supporting Turkey, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are on the side of the LNA. Its unofficial allies are France and the UAE. Fighting gradually subsided, a truce was signed in late 2020, and the Libyan government decided not to use the services of foreign forces, but to resolve the issue of dialogue between the warring Libyans.