Libyan Air Force technicians graduate after studies in Jordan


Thirty-four Libyan Air Force (LAF) aircraft engineers and technicians have graduated and returned to service after completing a 26 month-long basic training course at the Royal Jordanian Air Force Air Academy in the Jordanian capital Amman.

The engineers specialised in the maintenance of Russian-made fighter jets and they are the first graduates to emerge from a bilateral Jordanian-Libyan air force training deal signed between the Kingdom of Jordan and the pre-revolutionary Libyan government of long-time dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2009.

According to the Libya Herald, the graduates started training in 2009 at the LAF-owned Misurata Aviation Academy. It was interrupted by the revolutionary civil war which started in February 2011 and ended with the toppling and murder of Gaddafi by militias in October of the same year.

The deal was resuscitated in 2012 by the Libyan Defence Ministry of the post-revolutionary caretaker government and the trainees eventually started training in Amman in August 2013.

The return of the graduates comes a month after General Khalifa Haftar, the defence minister of the Tobruk-based General National Council (GNC) government extended the bilateral military training deal to include secondment of Jordanian army personnel to the Libyan army loyal to his government.

The extended agreement was signed last month between Haftar and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) Lieutenant-General Mashal Mohammed Al-Zabin. In addition to troop training, the agreement also provides for the treatment of wounded Libyan soldiers in Jordanian military hospitals.

Haftar’s section of the divided national army and a coalition of allied militias are battling several local armed factions and transnational jihadist groups allied to the Islamic State In Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which have all taken advantage of the security vacuum caused by the civil war to gain control of vast swathes of territory and cities over the past few months.

Speaking soon after signing the agreement in Amman, Haftar said Jordan will also provide Libyan army with ‘tactical training’ to sharpen its counter- terrorism skills.
“Jordan has prepared places for technical and tactical training of Libyan (Tobruk government-allied) forces. In the medical field, we need Jordanian Armed Forces medical help as we have many injured soldiers from our battles against terrorism. The lack of weapons prevents us from expanding the scope of operations, so we have ground limits caused by our limited operational capabilities,” Haftar said.

The Jordanian-Libyan military training deal last month came a week after a meeting of Arab League foreign and defence ministers reviewed the Libyan security crisis and adopted a resolution calling on member states to provide military equipment and troop training to help the GNC (Tobruk) government battle ISIL affiliates and armies allied to the rival government in Tripoli.

The training of Libyan forces abroad was mooted by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States as an international package to help rebuild the Libyan army and fill the security void left by the demise of the Gaddafi government. In 2012, Britain, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia agreed to train up to 15 000 Libyan troops and thousands are still receiving training abroad.

The UK programme ended prematurely last year when nearly 300 Libyans were expelled and airlifted back home from the Bassingbourn Barracks military academy for posing a ‘grave risk’ to public safety after five were arrested for aggravated rape and sexual assault of two British citizens, a man and a woman in the city of Cambridge.

In May this year, they were all slapped with jail sentences ranging between 10 months and 10 years and they have all started serving their sentences. Several Libyan army cadets sent for training to Jordan also were also arrested for rioting in their barracks early last year but the government in Amman has ignored the indiscipline and expanded military co-operation.