Mohamed Siala, foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has accused Jordan of supplying Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army.
Siala, on behalf of the Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a letter to the United Nations Security Council that foreign nations are supplying weapons to the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) in violation of the arms embargo.
“One of the aircraft being used in the war against Tripoli and the cities of western Libya is the Chinese Wing Loong drone, which Haftar recently brought in from Jordan,” he wrote, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly. “According to available information, the drones were sold to Jordan for the purpose of protecting that country’s frontier. However, having been delivered to Haftar’s forces, they are now being used outside its borders in a clear violation of Security Council resolutions.”
Siala said the aircraft were delivered to Benghazi on an Il-76TD cargo aircraft that arrived from Jordan on 28 March. According to Jane’s, flight tracking data showed a Jenis Air Il-76TD flying from Jordan to Benghazi on that day. It had made previous trips from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan to Libya.
In June 2019 the Royal Jordanian Air Force announced it was selling six CH-4B UAVs, acquired from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) in 2016 along with AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 guided bombs.
Jane’s Defence Weekly believes Jordan delivered the CH-4Bs, not Wing Loong UAVs, to Libya.
The CH-4 was introduced in 2011 and has been in Chinese service since 2014. It has also been sold to Iraq – Iraq’s CH-4Bs have been armed with AR-1 missiles and FT-9 50 kg guided bombs and used to attack Islamic State targets. Saudi Arabia has also acquired the type.
The CH-4 has a maximum take-off weight of 1 330 kg and a payload of 345 kg in addition to its electro-optical turret and synthetic aperture radar. The aircraft has a wingspan of 18 metres and length of 8.5 metres. It is powered by a 100 hp class piston engine giving a top speed of 235 km/h and cruise speed of 180 km/h with endurance of up to 40 hours.
In response to repeated violations of the Libyan arms embargo, the European Union on 31 March announced the launch of Operation Irini. Irini, (Greek for peace), will have as its core task the implementation of the UN arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets. In particular the mission will be able to carry out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016). The mandate of Operation Irini will initially last until 31 March 2021.
A number of countries have violated the arms embargo on Libya and in January, the United Nations said numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters.
The United Arab Emirates and Egypt support eastern forces of Khalifa Haftar which have been trying to take Tripoli. The internationally recognized administration based in Tripoli trying to fend off Haftar’s forces is backed by Turkey.
UN experts accuse Jordan and the United Arab Emirates of supplying military material to Haftar’s forces, which they said then prompted Libya’s Government of National Accord to ask Turkey for help. Haftar is also backed by Egypt and more recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials.