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Libya

Missile

Last Updated: January, 2015

Beginning in the 1970’s and continuing until Colonel Mu’ammar Qadhafi’s renunciation of all WMD-related programs in December 2003, Libya continually sought increasingly advanced ballistic missile capabilities. Following early imports of entire Scud-B and FROG-7 systems from the Soviet Union, Libya pursued indigenous missile production infrastructure for two-and-a-half decades. Libya's indigenous effort, which began with the help of German engineers, eventually, grew to include illicit materials and expertise procurement from several countries including China, North Korea, Germany, Serbia, Iraq, and Iran.

Missile Table for Libya

In 2004, experts from the United States and the United Kingdom helped to remove critical components of Libya's missile infrastructure, including untested Scud-C systems and guidance components. Their inspections revealed that Qadhafi's pursuit of improved ballistic missile capabilities were largely unsuccessful. Pressure from the international community repeatedly thwarted Libyan attempts to purchase medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and none of Libya's indigenous missile programs ever reached operational status. Following its renunciation of WMD, Libya converted most of its Scud-B arsenal into defensive short-range weapons and pledged to eliminate any missiles capable of traveling 300km with a 500kg payload (or, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Category 1 missiles).

During the 2011 armed uprising, forces loyal to Qadhafi launched a Scud-B missile at rebel forces that landed nowhere near valuable targets and produced no military effect, calling into question the condition and utility of the remaining arsenal. [1] Following the overthrow of Qadhafi, Libya’s transitional government has given no indication that it will resume seeking MTCR Category-1 missiles. Experts also doubt the utility of Libya's remaining Scud-B arsenal because of poor maintenance and operability and a history of suboptimal test-flight and combat performance. [2]

Capabilities

During the peak of its missile program, Qadhafi’s Libya possessed missiles capable of a maximum range and payload of 500km and 700kg respectively. Qadhafi also sought to bring Israel within his strike range by acquiring North Korean Nodong missiles and sponsoring indigenous production projects in the Al-Fatah and Condor-2 systems. [3] However, Libya failed in these efforts and agreed under its 2003 renunciation of weapons of mass destruction to limit its missile development to systems with a maximum range of 300km and a maximum payload of 500kg. [4]

Table 1 depicts the design characteristics of Libya's ballistic missiles, including key systems that are no longer an operational part of the Libyan arsenal. An important distinction exists between a missile's designed or optimal performance, and how that missile actually performs under operational conditions. However, as seen during Qadhafi’s failed August 2011 Scud-B strike, Libyan missiles listed as "operational" might not perform optimally in a combat situation. [5]

History

1975 to 1980: Soviet Imports Amidst Unsuccessful Ventures

Libya's attempts to acquire ballistic missile technology began in the mid-1970s. In 1976, Libya purchased approximately 80 Scud-B missiles from the Soviet Union. Two years later, Libya purchased approximately 40 FROG-7 rockets from the Soviet Union. [6] Later that decade, Libya tried unsuccessfully to acquire SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles, SS-12 Scaleboard, and SS-23 Spider SRBMs from Moscow, and MB/EE 600km range missile systems from Brazil. [7]

In 1980, the German firm Orbital Transport und Raketen AG (OTRAG, "Orbital Transport and Rockets, Inc.") agreed to develop a missile infrastructure in Libya. [8] After two years of development efforts in Libya, OTRAG ceased Libyan operations under pressure from the West German government. However, most OTRAG equipment and local personnel remained in Libya, and were therefore available to Tripoli in its ongoing missile efforts. [9] In 1987, Libya integrated the remnants of the OTRAG project into the secret Ittisalt program to develop a 300 to 700km liquid-fueled missile—based on German designs—at a research center near the Siwa Oasis. [10]

Around the same time, Libya also negotiated missile and artillery technology transfers with several Brazilian firms. While the outcome of these negotiations remains unclear, Libya likely combined some successfully transferred technologies with the OTRAG designs to develop the 950km liquid-fueled Al-Fatah MRBM. [11] None of these indigenous missile development projects ever reached operational status, and Al-Fatah test flights in 1987 and 1993 failed dismally. [12] Libya's imported Scud-Bs also performed questionably. On 14 April 1986, two Libyan Scud-B missiles targeting a U.S. radar station in Italy fell into the Mediterranean Sea. [13]

In 1990, Israeli intelligence reported Libyan attempts to acquire the Chinese solid-fueled DF-15/M-9 SRBM. [14] U.S. intelligence sources later asserted that these negotiations had entered the final stages before terminating under U.S. pressure in 1989. Tripoli also approached China about the liquid-fueled DF-3A/CSS-2A IRBM, but Chinese authorities refused to enter into talks. [15] Spanish intelligence claimed that in 1992, North Korea agreed to supply technical assistance for the Libyan ballistic missile program. [16] Other sources claim that in 1989, North Korea agreed to sell Scud Mod-C missiles (known as Hwasong-6 in North Korea), and reports of additional collaborative efforts in 1991 involving North Korea’s Nodong-1 missile development also surfaced. However, Jane’s more recently assessed that no known Nodong-1 transfers to Libya ever occurred. [17]

1990 to 2003: A Constellation of Collaborations and Interdictions

Libya's attempts either to purchase entire systems or develop an indigenous ballistic missile production capability continued throughout the 1990s. Under U.S. pressure in 1993, Ukrainian authorities seized roughly 80 metric tons of Ammonium perchlorate, a key solid propellant component, shipped from Russia and brokered by JPL Systems of Serbia. [18] Two years later, the CIA accused JPL Systems of providing $30 million in aid to the Al-Fatah program. [19]

Allegations of illicit missile cooperation repeatedly surfaced throughout the decade. In the mid-1990s, reports indicated a possible Libyan-Iranian missile cooperation agreement. Allegedly, Libya paid over $31 million to Tehran for material and expertise to expand the range of its Scud-B arsenal and finalize the Al-Fatah project. [20] The German Federal Intelligence Service, (BND) reported in January 1995 that Libya and Iraq concluded a framework agreement on joint ballistic missile development. German intelligence officials reported a series of Scud test launches in the Southwestern Libyan desert, intended to increase the range of the missiles. [21]

Around the same time, Germany began investigating German missile engineer Walter Ziegler, who figured prominently in continuing Libya's missile development after OTRAG officially left the country. [22] After several unsuccessful investigations, Ziegler was indicted in 1998 for assisting Libya's missile development effort. Ziegler smuggled arms technology to Libya using his companies, Globesat and Polytec in Munich, and a network of letter-box firms in Malta, Luxembourg, and London. [23] The smuggled items included telemetric transmitters used to measure the trajectory of missile flight paths, chromium-nickel-steel alloy tubes for missile casings and fuel tanks, and electronic navigation equipment. [24] In August 1996, Italian authorities boarded a Tripoli-bound cargo freighter and found three containers with components for a metal pressing machine useful for pressing missile combustion chambers. Officials traced the machine to the German firm H&H Metallorm, which went bankrupt in 1993 and had previously employed several managers serving prison terms for exports to Iraq. [25]

On 30 June 1999, Indian customs officials boarded a North Korean freighter and discovered wooden crates labeled "water refinery equipment" that instead contained an entire assembly line for Scud missile production. [26] A detailed investigation by U.S. and South Korean authorities revealed that the shipment, bound for Libya, constituted only a part of North Korea's sustained assistance to Tripoli. [27] In November 1999, British authorities discovered 32 crates disguised as automotive spares but actually containing Scud components from North Korea bound for Libya. [28] Shipping records indicated that a Taiwanese company shipped the components through Hong Kong using forged documents. [29]

Although more than two decades of illicit work yielded only marginal successes, Libya continued to pursue improved missile capabilities into the 21st century. In 2000, a report by the National Security Agency alleged that the state-run China Precision Machine Import-Export Co. agreed to supply Libya with a hypersonic wind tunnel, a crucial component used for modeling and simulation in missile development. [30] On 6 April of the same year, Swiss authorities arrested Taiwanese businessman Hsieh Chin-Yi for trying to smuggle four Scud missile propulsion units to Libya. Upon further investigations, the Swiss officials noted that Hsieh's Taiwanese company had repeatedly been accused of covertly supplying Libya with Scud components throughout the 1990s. [31] In 2001, U.S. intelligence officials accused Iran of aiding the Libyan missile program. According to the report, Iranians had been spotted working on a factory involved with the Al-Fatah program, with the effort being coordinated by Iran's Shahid Hemmet Industrial Group. [32]

2003: Renunciation of WMD Programs

On 19 December 2003, Colonel Qadhafi announced that Libya would renounce its pursuit of WMD and offensive ballistic missile capabilities. [33] In January 2004, Libya shipped its most critical missile materials to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including five Scud-C missile guidance sets and their gyroscopes. A second shipment included five complete and two partial Scud-C missiles, and Scud-C launchers. [34] Libya retained its Scud-B missiles and FROG-7 rockets, but pledged to convert its Scud arsenal into short-range defensive weapons, and to eliminate all missiles exceeding the MTCR's range and payload guidelines (300km, 500kg). Libya also pledged to end all military trade with North Korea. [35]

Three facilities comprised the bulk of Libya's ballistic missile development efforts: a solid propellant plant and rocket engine test stand at Tarhuna; the Al-Fajer Alga Did factory for Scud maintenance and modification; and the liquid-fueled refurbishment plant run by the Central Organization for Electronic Research in Tripoli. [36] In late 2004, experts from the United States and the United Kingdom concluded that Libya's missile program suffered from poor management and heavy dependence on foreign assistance. Moreover, Libyan interest in more advanced systems had waned as the program instead focused on the more basic task of simply maintaining its Scud-B inventory. They also found that Libya had acquired only five Scud-C guidance systems, implying an early stage of development. Furthermore, authorities concluded that, contrary to 1990s Israeli intelligence, Libya had not acquired a Nodong-type missile system. North Korea provided most of the equipment for the Al-Fajer plant, and Iran provided assistance to the Central Organization for Electronic Research. Yugoslavian companies and individuals also hosted all of Libya's wind tunnel tests in Belgrade. [37]

Recent Developments and Current Status

Libya's earliest acquisitions from the Soviet Union comprise its current missile arsenal. The Libyan Army deploys four SSM brigades with Scud-B missiles and approximately 40 FROG-7 rockets. With poor management and inadequate military infrastructure even during the Qadhafi regime, many of the estimated 80 Scud-Bs are believed to be in storage or inoperable. The Libyan armed forces lack appropriate training and organization to effectively deploy the SRBMs and lack up-to-date radar capabilities. Under Qadhafi, Libya's army has approximately 3,000 anti-tank missiles, including Milans, AT-3 Saggers, AT-4 Spigots, and AT-5 Spandrels. [38] Libya's naval capabilities are equally outdated, incorporating approximately 40 to 50 SS-N-2C Styx ASCMs, four batteries of SA-N-4 Gecko SAMs, and roughly 32 Otomat Mark I/II missile launchers. The navy also has 25 Mi-14 Haze ASW, and 7 SA-341 Superfrelon ASW and SAR helicopters capable of carrying the French AM-39 Exocet ASCM, but it is unclear whether Libya's navy possesses Exocet ASCMs. [39] Fears of inadequate security and reports of smuggling of such systems out of Libya following the 2011 overthrow of the Qadhafi government have primarily involved shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles rather than WMD-capable missiles. [40]

With the end of arms sanctions, Libya began modernizing its missile forces. In August 2007, Libya signed a $400 million deal worth with France for MBDA's Milan anti-tank missile and Tetra communications equipment. [41] In February 2010, Russia agreed to sell Libya at least two S-300PMU Favorit air defence systems as part of a larger aircraft package. [42] In June 2010, reports surfaced of potential Libyan interest in Russia's Pantsir short-range anti-aircraft gun and missile systems. [43] According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of State, "prior to the collapse of the Qadhafi regime in 2011, available information indicates Libya was acting consistently with the commitment it made publicly in December 2003 that Libya would 'limit itself to missiles of range standards agreed upon in the MTCR control system.'" [44] Whether Libya's transitional government will continue to seek foreign technology to modernize its missile forces (while also upholding its 2003 commitment) remains to be seen.

However, if Libya maintains its MTCR commitments and refrains from pursuing MTCR Category 1 missiles, Libya could improve the condition and accuracy of its remaining Scud-B arsenal, but would not be able to improve their range or payload. [45] Historically, foreign suppliers showed reluctance to provide Libya with longer range missiles, although the effect of the fall of the Qadhafi regime on such attitudes remains undetermined. However, the 2004 dismantlement of Libya's proscribed missile production infrastructure, will limit the attractiveness and ease with which Libya could pursue indigenous missile production. Although many question the operability of Libya's remaining missiles, the U.S. Department of Defense openly acknowledged targeting Libya's Scud-B facilities early in the conflict, suggesting that they hold either symbolic or tactical value. [46]

Sources:
[1] “Libya conflict: Gaddafi forces ‘launched Scud missile,’” BBC News, 16 August 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
[2] James Hackett, "Whatever happened to Libya's Scud-Bs?" IISS Voices, 23 March 2011, www.iiss.org; and Gen. Carter Ham, "DOD News Briefing with Gen. Ham via Teleconference from Germany," 21 March 2011.
[3] Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats, Second ed. (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002), pp. 308-309.
[4] David C Isby, "Libya can keep its 'Scud' and 'FROG' missiles," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, 1 February 2004.
[5] “Libya conflict: Gaddafi forces ‘launched Scud missile,’” BBC News, 16 August 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
[6] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993. p. 7; Robert Waller, "Chemical and Biological Weapons and Deterrence Case Study 2: Libya," Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1998, p. 8.
[7] Anthony H. Cordesman, "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East: Regional Trends, National Forces, Warfighting Capabilities, Delivery Options, and Weapons Effects," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 4 October 1999, p. 83; and Robert Waller, "Chemical and Biological Weapons and Deterrence Case Study 2: Libya," Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1998, p. 9.
[8] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993, p. 7.
[9] Thomas Scheuer, "Old Hand Trapped," Focus, 3 December 2001, pp. 84-87, Open Source Document EUP200112040000420; Hans Leyendecker, "A Veteran of Arms Dealing," 18 September 1998, p. 11, Open Source Document FTS19980919000465; "Proliferation von Massenvernichtungsmitteln und Traegerraketen," Bundesnachrichtendienst (German Federal Intelligence Service), April 1997.
[10] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993, p. 7; and Robert Waller, "Chemical and Biological Weapons and Deterrence Case Study 2: Libya," Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1998, p. 9.
[11] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993, p. 7.
[12] Robert Waller, "Chemical and Biological Weapons and Deterrence Case Study 2: Libya," Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1998, p. 9.
[13] "Lampedusa played 'key role' / Libya attacks Italian radar base in response to U.S. bombing raid," The Guardian, 17 April 1986; E. J. Dionne, Jr., "Italian Isle, Site of U.S. Base, Is Fearful of Qaddafi's Anger," The New York Times, 27 May 1986, p. A1; Loren Jenkins, "Italy Takes Over U.S. Base; Coast Guard Navigation Site on Island Threatened by Libya," Washington Post, 2 June 1986, p. A20; "Libya strikes back at U.S. signals base/Attack on Italian Lampedusa in retaliation for American air raids," The Guardian, 16 April 1986.
[14] "Libya trying to buy Chinese SSMs, says Israel," Flight International, 23 May 1990.
[15] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993, p. 7.
[16] "Scud components may have been bound for Libya," Jane's Missile and Rockets, 1 July 2000.
[17] John Hart and Shannon N. Kile, “Libya’s renunciation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2005: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2005), pp. 629-648. Keith B. Payne, Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1996) p. 18; Barry Rubin, “North Korea’s Threat to the Middle East and the Middle East’s Threat to Asia,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, n.d., accessed 1 December 2011, meria.idc.ac.il. Also see: statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993. For the more recent assessments of alleged Nodong-1 transfers, see: Duncan Lennox, ed. "SS-1D ‘Scud C’ (Russian Federation), Offensive weapons," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue 50, pp. 151-153.
[18] "Libya sells Al-Fatah design to Iranians," Flight International, 14 April 1993.
[19] Bill Gertz, "Serbia is helping Libya with ballistic missiles, CIA says," The Washington Times, 12 November 1996, p. A3; "Libya-SAIC Brief," CNS Document; Robert Waller, "Chemical and Biological Weapons and Deterrence Case Study 2: Libya," Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1998, p. 9.
[20] Michael Evans, "Libya and Iran 'plan joint missile project'," The Times, 1 April 1995.
[21] Rudolf Lambrecht and Leo Mueller, "Germans involved in Libyan, Iraqi Missile Production," Stern, 26 February 1998, p. 34, Open Source Document FTS 19980226000293.
[22] Rudolf Lambrecht and Leo Mueller, "Germans involved in Libyan, Iraqi Missile Production," Stern, 26 February 1998, p. 34, Open Source Document FTS 19980226000293.
[23] Hans Leyendecker, "A Veteran of Arms Dealing," Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 18 September 1998, p. 11, Open Source Document FTS19980919000465.
[24] Thomas Scheuer, "Old Hand Trapped," Focus, 3 December 2001, pp. 84-87, Open Source Document EUP200112040000420; Hans Leyendecker, "A Veteran of Arms Dealing," Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 18 September 1998, p. 11, Open Source Document FTS19980919000465.
[25] Thomas Scheuer, "Raketen-Kayser unter Beschuss," Focus, 1 September 1997, www.focus.de.
[26] "India Seizes Suspect Missile Ship," The Courier Mail, 5 July 1999, p. 13.
[27] Joby Warrick, "On North Korean Freighter, a Hidden Missile Factory," The Washington Post, 14 August 2003, p. A01; "Seizure of the North Korean ship Ku-Wol San by the Indian Coast Guard," Aviation Week, 26 July 1999, p. 25; and "India detains North Korean ship with missile machinery," Deutsche Presse Agentur, 4 July 1999.
[28] "Libya; Libya's Scud Missiles?" North Africa Journal, 13 January 2000; "Scud parts seized by UK customs," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, 1 February 2000; and Richard Bond, "The Proliferation Security Initiative: Targeting Iran and North Korea?" British American Security Information Council, Occasional Paper No. 53, January 2007, p. 5.
[29] Statement by Joseph Bermudez, Jr. before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, 14 September 1993, p. 7.
[30] Bill Gertz, "Beijing delivered missile technology to Libya, U.S. says," The Washington Times, 13 April 2000, p. A1.
[31] "Scud components may have been bound for Libya," Jane's Missile and Rockets, 1 July 2000.
[32] Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, "Iran Helps Libya," The Washington Times, 2 February 2001, p. A8.
[33] Sharon A. Squassoni and Andrew Feickert, "Disarming Libya: Weapons of Mass Destruction," CRS Report for Congress, 22 April 2004, p. 2.
[34] Robin Hughes, "Libya ships nuclear weapon material to U.S.," Jane's Defence Weekly, 4 February 2004; and "Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, Human Rights and the Future of U.S.-Libyan Relations," Hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Statement of the Honorable Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, 10 March 2004, p. 20.
[35] "Libya promises to cut Scud-B missiles' range," The International Herald Tribune, 12 April 2000, p. 7; and Sharon A. Squassoni and Andrew Feickert, "Disarming Libya: Weapons of Mass Destruction," CRS Report for Congress, 22 April 2004, Background.
[36] Andrew Koch, "More Details of Libyan WMD revealed," Jane's Defence Weekly, 31 March 2004.
[37] Andrew Koch, "Libya's missile programme secrets revealed," 18 August 2005.
[38] Anthony H. Cordesman, The Military Balance in the Middle East, (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), p. 96, and pp. 100-101.
[39] Anthony H. Cordesman, The Military Balance in the Middle East, (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), pp. 102-103; and "Middle East Military Balance," The Institute for National Security Studies, www.inss.org.il.
[40] Karen Allen, “On the trail of Libya’s missing missiles,” BBC News, Libya, 18 November 2011; Patrick Markey, "Algerian troops find huge arms cache on Libyan border," Reuters, 24 October 2013.
[41] Peter Lewis, "France agrees Libyan arms sale," Jane's Defence Weekly, 15 August 2007; and Gerrard Cowan, "Suitors eye Libyan market," Jane's Defence Weekly, 26 December 2007.
[42] Lauren Gelfand, "Russia announces $1.8bn arms deal with Libya," Jane's Defence Weekly, 2 February 2010.
[43] Lauren Gelfand, "Algeria and Libya interested in buying 96K6 Pantir-S1 missile systems," Jane's Defence Weekly, 11 June 2010.
[44] Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, Prepared by the U.S. Department of State, (August 2012), p. 30.
[45] David C. Isby, "Libya can keep its 'Scud' and 'FROG' missiles," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, 1 February 2004.
[46] Gen. Carter Ham, "DOD News Briefing with Gen. Ham via Teleconference from Germany," 21 March 2011; and James Hackett, "Whatever happened to Libya's Scud-Bs?," IISS Voices, 23 March 2011, www.iiss.org.

Get the Facts on Libya
  • Purchased uranium enrichment technology and nuclear weapon design plans from the A.Q. Khan network
  • Still possesses 846 MT of chemical precursors slated for destruction by December 2016
  • Received missile technology assistance from China, the DPRK, Germany and Iran

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.