The last operational Libyan Air Force MiG-23 was shot down over Benghazi on 12 February, following the loss of another MiG-23 on February 8.
Libyan Air Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Saqr al-Jaroushi, said the two-seat aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery while carrying out air strikes against Islamic militants. The crew were believed to have ejected safely, but their whereabouts were not immediately known.
A military spokesman, Nasser el-Hassi, told Agence France Presse (AFP) the MiG-23UB was hit as it was flying over Qaryunes, northwest Benghazi, as it bombed positions of the Mujahideed Shura Council, a coalition of Islamist militias affiliated to al-Qaeda.
The MiG-23 is believed to have been the last one operational by the Libyan Air Force, which answers to the internationally recognised government in the east of the country.
Two other MiG-23s have been lost in the last couple of months, including a MiG-23MLD on 8 February, which crashed near the eastern city of Derna after attacking Islamic State fighter positions. The LANA news agency, which is close to the recognised government, blamed “technical problems” for the downing, but the spokesman for a coalition of Islamic militias in Derna, Abdul-Moneim al-Shairy, confirmed that his group fired at the jet. On 4 January, a MiG-23ML was shot down over Benghazi.
According to Air Forces Daily, the latest MiG-23 crash leaves one Sukhoi Su-22 and 17 MiG-21s operational. Apparently the two-seat Su-22UM-3K was only recently made airworthy by cannibalising other grounded aircraft, and flew again on 9 February at al-Watiya Air Base.
Libya’s internationally-recognized government is battling various militant groups, including Islamic State and a rival alliance of local Islamist forces. Its air force has conducted air strikes against various targets, including oil tankers, and sunk vessels the government has accused of carrying fighters, weapons and ammunition.