LONDON (Reuters) - On paper, Libya’s military has some 100,000 troops, more than 2,000 tanks, 374 aircraft and a navy and includes two patrol submarines. What Colonel Muammar Gaddafi actually has left to call on is a different matter.
Here are some details of Libya’s armed forces, officially totaling around 76,000 active personnel, plus a reserve or people’s militia of some 40,000.
GROUND FORCES - STRENGTH ON PAPER:
Numbers: 50,000 including 25,000 conscripts.
Main Battle Tanks - 2,205, including 180 T-90S and 200 T-62.
The rest are in store.
Reconnaissance vehicles - 120.
Armored Infantry Fighting vehicles - 1,000.
Armored personnel carriers - 945.
Artillery pieces 2,421 (including 444 self-propelled, 647 towed).
Mortars - 500.
Air Defense surface-to-air missiles - at least 424.
GROUND FORCES - REALITY:
Even before the uprising, Libya’s military strength was seen as having been seriously undermined by sanctions and neglect although Western powers had just began to sell it weapons again. Much of the equipment is seen as poorly maintained or unusable, leaving it hard to estimate genuine numbers.
Analysts say Gaddafi tried to emasculate the regular army to avoid the emergence of commanders who might rival his immediate family, relying instead particularly on three loyal “regime protection” units often of his own tribe.
That leaves him with what most estimate to be some 10-12,000 loyal Libyan troops. The most reliable formation is seen to be the 32nd Brigade commanded by Gaddafi’s son Khamis.
Repeated reports from witnesses, rights groups and others talk of African mercenaries flown in by Gaddafi to help strengthen his government. Exact numbers are impossible to obtain.
In Libya’s east around the city of Benghazi, regular military forces appear to have either defected to the opposition or melted away. Citizens groups also appear to have taken arms.
But analysts say the opposition lacks much in the way of command and control or even any form of centralized leadership. So far, opposition units have focused primarily on defending territory and have shown little appetite to advance.
That leaves loyalist forces trying to stem protest and perhaps regain lost territory in Libya’s west around Tripoli. The key coastal city of Sirte between Tripoli and Benghazi is still under government control and the east effectively lost.
But experts warn the situation remains fluid.
“We underestimate the degree of loyalty in the security forces,” warns Shashank Joshi, Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “The defections appear to be patchwork and possibly along tribal lines. The units that matter, such as Khamis’s 32nd Brigade, are holding together.
NAVY - STRENGTH ON PAPER
Numbers: 8,000 including coast guard.
Submarines - 2 patrol submarines.
Surface combatants - 3
Patrol and coastal combatants - 14
NAVY - REALITY
Libya’s two surviving Foxtrot class diesel submarines were delivered by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, but outside experts have long questioned their reliability. According to IHS Jane’s, in 2003 one was reported to be in dry dock and one was sea going -- although unlikely to be fully operational. It suggested both might already have been abandoned.
AIR FORCE - STRENGTH ON PAPER
Combat capable aircraft - 374.
227 fighter aircraft -- 13-Mirage F1-ED, 94 MiG-25, 75 MiG-23 and 45 MiG-21.
Helicopters - 85 Support helicopters
35 Attack helicopters
AIR FORCE - REALITY
Analysts estimate many of Libya’s fast jets are in fact no longer airworthy. Gaddafi has so far also lost at least three aircraft in the course of this uprising with two jets defecting to Malta and the crew of a third ejecting over the desert rather than bomb opposition targets as ordered.
Occasional reports have also spoken of the use of helicopter gunships, fuelling calls for foreign powers to impose a no-fly zone.
There are also Air Defense Command forces which possess at least 216 surface-to-air missiles and 144 towed and 72 self propelled missiles.
Again, maintenance may be an issue. Most analysts believe Libya’s armed forces would not be able to seriously threaten outside air forces attempting to enforce a no-fly zone, saying Gaddafi’s defense capabilities probably lag behind those of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein before the US-led 2003 invasion.
The BBC reported a British RAF Hercules transport aircraft evacuating foreign nationals came under small arms fire this week but was not seriously damaged. Some suggested the attack might have come from opposition forces who mistook the plane for one of Gaddafi’s aircraft on a bombing raid.
According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Libya destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical weapons munitions in early 2004 as part of a rapprochement with the West that also saw it abandon a nuclear program.
The OPCW told Reuters Libya did retain some 9.5 tons of deadly mustard gas at a secret desert location but no longer had the capability to deliver it.
Sources: Reuters/IISS Military Balance 2010.
additional reporting by David Cutler
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