Who sold Libya its supermissiles?

From Wired.com:

The U.S. government calls it the “one of the most lethal” weapons of its kind — an advanced, portable missile, designed to knock planes out of the sky. A variant of it just showed up in Moammar Gadhafi’s army and nobody seems to know how exactly it got there. But diplomatic cables, unearthed by WikiLeaks, suggest one potential culprit: the Chavez regime in Venezuela.

Aviation Week’s eagle-eyed reporter David Fulghum spotted a Russian SA-24 Grinchsurface-to-air missile mounted on a Libyan army truck in recent cable news footage. And that’s a cause for concern: The SA-24 is more accurate, longer-flying, and more lethal than than earlier models of surface-to-air missiles. It also has a dual-band infrared seeker and is more difficult to jam than older systems.

The missiles “reportedly have counter-countermeasures that may be difficult for planes with just flares to counter,” Matthew Schroeder, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Arms Sales Monitoring Project, tells Danger Room. ”Overall it’s just a much more capable system.”[…]

So how did the missile get there and where did it come from? Thanks to a shaky system of international arms-sale monitoring, its hard to say.

Russia has shown a willingness to sell Libya other sophisticated air defense systems in the recent past. In 2010, Moscow announced a deal to sell Tripoli a $1.8 billion package of arms that included two batteries of its big, bleeding-edge S-300 air defense missiles, in addition to Sukhoi fighter jets and T-90 tanks. But the deal was never finalized.

Schroeder says he can’t find any other Russian missile sales in the last seven years. But countries aren’t always keen to be candid about their arms deals.

[…]Russia has sold Venezuela a shoulder-fired version of the SA-24, which is a bit different from the truck-mounted model found by Aviation Week. In classified cables released by WikiLeaksAmerican diplomats expressed alarm at Russia’s deal with Venezuela, writing that the missile, “considered one of the most lethal portable air defense systems ever made,” was at risk of falling into other hands.[…] Gadhafi is reportedly close to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who has blasted the coalition attacks on Libya.[…]

So, did Chavez sell Gadafi the SA-24?

Notes:

The 9K38 Igla (RussianИгла́needle) is a Russian/Soviet man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM). “9K38” is the Russian GRAU designation of the system. Igla-S (SA-24 Grinch) is the newest variant, which is a substantially improved variant with longer range, more sensitive seeker, improved resistance to latest countermeasures, and a heavier warhead.

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2 Responses to “Who sold Libya its supermissiles?”

  1. By RIA Novosti .Cape Town Russia is negotiating the delivery of more air defense systems to Iran despite Western demands for a halt in sales to Tehran over its refusal to stop uranium enrichment the head of Russias arms exporter said Thursday.. Contacts between our countries on delivery of air defense systems are continuing and we do not see any reason to suspend them Rosoboronexport General Director Anatoly Isaikin told reporters at the Africa Aerospace Defence-2008 AAD-2008 exhibition near Cape Town in South Africa..The official reiterated that deliveries of Russian anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran were aimed exclusively at increasing its air defense capability and were not subject to international restrictions..Iran recently took delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a 700-million contract signed in late 2005.

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