Military Capabilities

Russian air force using Libyan airfield

25 October 2018

LNA leader Khalifa Haftar is seen leaving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Moscow in November 2016. Source: Vasily Maximov/AFP/ Getty images

Russian military aircraft have landed at an airport in eastern Libya that has been used as a military base by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Open source ADS-B transponder signals have shown that two Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Tupolev Tu-154M passenger aircraft have flown at least two missions via Al-Khadim airport. The flights on 17 and 22 October both involved the aircraft landing there as they returned from Khartoum in Sudan en route to Russia's Humaymim Air Base in western Syria.

On 4 October a VKS Il-76 transport aircraft flew from Humaymim past Crete, but tracking data is not available to determine its destination.

Also known as Al-Kharouba airport, Al-Khadim is inside territory controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA): the most powerful faction in eastern Libya that is led by Khalifa Haftar, who was a general in the 1980s before going into exile. UAE military aircraft were seen there in 2016 as new hangars and other infrastructure were constructed. The UAE aircraft appear to have flown combat missions in support of LNA operations against Islamist militant factions in Libya.

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