Libyan Strongman Rolls Out the Vintage Military Hardware
You can't act tough without parades
Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar wants the world to know he has weapons. They’re vintage weapons, true, but in combination makes for a substantial arsenal. Since seizing control of Benghazi four years ago, Haftar’s forces — under the political framework of the House of Representatives — have expanded to control eastern Libya with the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
The operation to take Benghazi, Operation Dignity, is now a holiday and one celebrated in grand, dictatorial style. Photos from the Libyan army’s general staff — meaning Haftar’s forces and not those of the rival Government of National Accord in Tripoli — released photos of some of the hardware that survived the war and is still operational.
It is also a power move, coming soon after the 75-year-old Haftar’s recent stroke prompted rumors of his imminent demise. The field marshal attended the parade. The point of being a strongman, after all, is to present an image that you mean business.
Above and at top — 2K12 Kub launchers and an R-17 Elbrus missile, pointing vertically. Libyan army photos
2K12 Kub anti-air missiles and an R-17 Elbrus ballistic missile. The launchers with three missiles a piece are Kubs — known by its NATO codename as SA-6 missile systems. Dating to the 1960s, these missiles proved ineffective during the 2011 NATO-led intervention.
Muammar Gaddafi also still had some Elbrus — or Scud-B — missiles at the start of the civil war, but they were similarly ineffective. The Elbrus/Scub-B is a short-range ballistic missile, meaning it can only travel around 300 kilometers, and is also in service in North Korea where it is known as the Hwasong-5.
T-62 tanks and Grad missiles. It can be hard to tell T-62s apart from their famous cousin the T-55, but the fume extractor one-third of the way down the barrel marks this machine as one of the former.
This lucky T-62 was likely one of the hundreds acquired by Gaddafi’s forces during the 1970s, meaning it has survived not only Libya’s 1980s-era desert wars with Chad but also the civil war.
The BM-21 Grad multiple-rocket launchers are a Soviet-era Cold War standby.
BRDM-2s. You can’t have a vintage army without BRDM-2s. For decades, the Soviet Union exported these light armored vehicles to every inhabited continent except Australia — Cuba was the one country in North America to receive them.
A cheap, fast-moving and versatile vehicle has kept the BRDM-2 active. In 2013, a year before Haftar’s coup, the Czech Republic reportedly modernized hundreds of Libyan BRDM-2s, preparing them for a new era.