Somebody’s Popping Off Laser-Guided Shells in Libya
Probably Khalifa Haftar ...
On Nov. 5, 2017, the website Libya Times published on social media photos of the remnants of an unexploded guided artillery projectile, but misidentified it as a U.S.-made Excalibur.
War Is Boring identified the munition as a Chinese GP1 guided 155-millimeter artillery munition — a licensed copy of the Russian 30F39 Krasnopol guided shell.
Libya Times reported that the shell was fired on Nov. 1 near Wearshafana, on the outskirts of Tripoli, by forces loyal to Osama Al Juwaili as they attacked the Fourth Brigade led by Brig. Bashir Najih.
Al Juwaili, who served as Libya’s defense minister in 2011 and 2012, commands the Zintan Revolutionaries’ Military Council, which formed in 2011. The Zintan Military Council is neither an active opponent nor a close ally of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based Libyan National Army, one of the two main regimes competing for power in the war-torn country.
Above and at top — the GP1 guided shell that appeared in Libya in November 2017. LNA photos
That said, the Zintan council has benefited from the LNA’s logistics network and arms-acquisition efforts. Zintan’s attack on the rival Fourth Brigade is indicative of the LNA’s growing power in western Libya. And the appearance of a Chinese copy of a Russian-designed smart artillery shell could point to foreign support for the LNA as it moves west across Libya.
Chinese firm Norinco markets two laser-guided projectiles — the GP1 and the GP6. The GP1 has a maximum range of 20 kilometers and, the company claims, a hit probability of 90 percent. The GP6 increases the range to 25 kilometers and is claimed to be more difficult to jam.
This is not the first time that a guided artillery munition has showed up in Libya. On Oct. 30th, 2016, the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council — a group with ties to Al Qaeda — published photos of the tail section of an apparent Krasnopol guided artillery projectile. The BRSC claimed it was a U.S.-made rocket and had been fired by warplanes from the United Arab Emirates, which supports the LNA.
Now, it’s true that between June and December 2016, the UAE and LNA were bombarding BRSC militants. The projectile that appeared in October 2016 was probably launched by one of the LNA’s howitzers. Markings on the shell indicated that it was manufactured in 2014.
The GP1 from October 2016. Photo via BRSC
In their latest report published in June 2017, the U.N. Panel of Experts on Libya downplayed the possibility that Russia supplied the smart shell to the LNA. “In 2014 AO Kalashnikov Concern did not manufacture Krasnopol projectiles or export them to foreign customers,” the panel reported. “The explosive fill shown was not the one used in that type of projectile and that AO Kalashnikov Concern as the manufacturer did not use markings like the lot number shown.“
The panel noted that it was also investigating Chinese-made versions of the Russian shell.
In May 2007, a Chinese magazine reported that China Norinco successfully sold to the UAE a thousand GP1 laser-guided artillery shells. The magazine reported that Norinco had also sold GP1 laser-guided artillery shells to an African country …
The UAE has provided equipment and military support to the LNA since the summer of 2014. It would not be surprising if Abu Dhabi transferred some of its Chinese guided munitions to the eastern Libyan warlord. On the other hand, the unspecified African country mentioned above could be Libya.
In any event, it’s apparent that Haftar and his LNA have access to guided artillery shells as they move against their rivals in Libya.