Libya is the New ‘Eldorado’ for Mercenary Pilots

By Strategika51

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By Strategika51 – English translation by Steve Bruce for FRN

Libya is the new Eldorado for military pilot mercenaries from around the world. That’s because two rival governments in Libya –  Sarraj’s GNA and Haftar’s LNA – employ mercenary pilots, from more than fifty
countries for tactical missions.

The work is very well paid and quite easy, since mission specifications generally consist of bombing infrastructure targets. The targets are bridges, airstrips, telecommunication stations, and even portions of highway… including the famous highway between Tripoli and Benghazi. That highway was built by South Korea during the Gaddafi regime, and even caused South Korea to send a warship to the Libyan coast, to symbolically bomb the region in the midst of the Libyan civil war.

During the “Arab Spring”, Gaddafi’s Libyan warplanes were abandoned in spite of the sheer number of jet fighters the regime had. Gaddafi purchased a plethora of Mig-21s, Mig-23s, and French Mirage F-1’s. During the revolt, many of these warplanes were looted by armed militias; other planes have been re-sold on the black market, and some were rehabilitated with the help of countries like Russia and Egypt to serve in their own military operations.

Whether related to black market sales or ground operations in Syria, warplanes of the former Libyan regime are generally flown by retired pilots trained by various forces during the 1980’s and 90’s. Many of the older pilots lack the physical ability and technical knowledge to fly the combat or tactical missions that they formerly could.

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Not widely reported in the west, some Libyan warplanes crash on first take-off, while others have failed in flight. Of two rescued MiG-25’s, one was lost on its test flight by a Mirage pilot unfamiliar with the Mig-25, who stalled at a low altitude. Rumor says that crash related to hostile fire, but nothing in Libya can be confirmed, and everything can be denied.

Now General Khalifa Haftar, one of the protagonists of the ongoing war in Libya, has entered into an agreement with Egypt for training new war pilots. Two programs involve training on the MiG-21 to be operational by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, demand for pilots by both sides in Libya has led to a real gold rush: ex-pilots, pilots, and their agents from all over the world, have flown to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to take part. Thus the case of former USAF pilot Jamie Sponaugle, who flew on behalf of Misrata forces (GNA) and whose Dassault Mirage F1 was shot down near Tripoli, is not really a surprise.

The case of mercenary Jamie Sponaugle is identical to the other shot-down Mirage, piloted by an Ecuadorian national — unless it is a Frenchman with false Ecuadorian papers which is quite common in Libya –on behalf of Haftar, or even Ukrainians flying refurbished MiG-23’s on behalf of both governments; this has never been a secret.

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