Monday, April 29, 2019

Remains of Chinese made missiles found in Tripoli points to Wing Loongs airstrikes

As part of Operation Taoufane al-Karama, the accuracy of night air strikes has become unusually high for at least a week. The past days, many pictures of remains of missiles were sent to me for identification pointing they could have been launched by foreign air forces during night airstrikes around Tripoli. The photos have been taken in fighting in Wadi Rabe on April 17th and in Aziziya and comparison with Chinese made Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) LJ-7, also known as 'Blue Arrow-7', confirmed that this type of missiles was used in the two air strikes. Some Blue Arrow 7 missiles fragments were found following night air strikes on :

- Wadi Rabe' south of Tripoli on April 17th
- Al-Hira on April 20th
- El-Azizia on April 20th
- Ain Zara on April 21th

The LJ-7 missile is an ATGM derivative of a semi-active laser guided HJ-10 for export market. The missile has been displayed at Eurosatory 2012 as the Blue Arrow 7. It is also used for armor penetration is up to 1400 mm; it is achieved by increasing the warhead and reducing the fuel, resulting in the reduction of the maximum range.

On April 19th, 2018, a LJ-7 missile shot from a drone was used by the Saudi-led coalition to assassinate the president of Houthi Supreme Political Council Saleh Ali al-Sammad.

The LJ-7 missile can be loaded on Wing Loong 2 UAV, in service notably with United Arab Emirates Air Force which deployed some of them at al-Khadim airbase in eastern Libya and with Egypt Air Force.

Al-Khadim is a former airport located in al-Marj province in eastern Libya. Since June 2016, Emirates IOMAX AT-802 “Air Tractor” turboprop aircraft and Chinese-made Wing Loong UAV have been deployed on this airbase on which extension works started to increase its capacity. The existing parking area was equipped with a dozen of shelters, half of them used to house aircraft and drones.

This small fleet was engaged in airstrike and reconnaissance missions in support of Libyan National Army troops fighting islamist groups in Benghazi, in particular the Islamic State et the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, or BRSC - a group with ties to Al Qaeda. A second parking area was under construction since September 2016 in the base’s southeast corner. A dozen of large shelters were built and half of the new tarmac was achieved on February 2017. The size of these infrastructures is large enough to host fighter jets like F-16s, Mirage 2000s or even Rafales.

Tripoli is far from this UAE-built airbase, so the Wing Loongs might be operated from an alternative runway close to the Tripoli front in order to stay longer in the air for carrying out Close Air Support (CAS) to LNA.