July 12 (Reuters) - Libya’s military before the insurrection was on paper made up of more than 100,000 troops, backed by heavy artillery, tanks, warplanes and a small navy.
Since the rebellion members of the armed forces have defected and military hardware has fallen into rebel hands.
However despite some rebel gains, Muammar Gaddafi still holds Tripoli, has better armed land forces than his foes, and still has lots of money.
On Wednesday rebel fighters seized al-Qawalish, a village south of the Libyan capital, and another group advanced towards Tripoli from the east in the biggest push in weeks towards Gaddafi’s main stronghold.
The capture of al-Qawalish is significant because beyond it lies the larger town of Gharyan which controls the main highway to the capital. Gharyan has came under attack in recent days from NATO warplanes.
Here are some details about Libya’s armed forces, officially totalling about 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 - 800 (many thought to be inoperable)
Reconnaissance vehicles - 120.
Armoured Infantry Fighting vehicles - 1,000.
Armoured personnel carriers - 945.
Artillery pieces 2,421
Mortars - 500.
Air Defence surface-to-air missiles - at least 424.
* GROUND FORCES - REALITY:
— Even before the uprising, Libya’s military was undermined by sanctions and neglect although Western powers had begun to sell it weapons again. Much equipment is poorly maintained or unusable, leaving it hard to estimate genuine numbers.
— Analysts have said 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 estimated 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 put down the revolt. Exact numbers are impossible to obtain.
* NAVY - STRENGTH ON PAPER
Numbers: 8,000 including coast guard.
Submarines - 2 patrol submarines.
Surface vessels - 3
Patrol and coastal ships - 16
* NAVY - REALITY
— Libya’s two surviving 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 - 394 (many non-operational)
Seven bombers — Tu-22
187 fighters — 75 MiG-23, 15 MiG-23U, 94 MiG-25, 3 MiG-25U
180 fighter-ground attack — 45 MiG-21, 40 MiG-23BN, 4 Mirage 5DP30, 14 Mirage F-1A, 3 Mirage F-1B, 15 Mirage F-1E, 53 Su-17M-2, 6 Su-24MK
Seven intelligence/surveillance — MiG-25R
35 Attack — 23 Mi-25, 12 Mi-35
11 Maritime reconnaissance
55 Transport — 4 CH-47C, 5 Bell 206, 46 PZL Mi-2
* AIR FORCE - REALITY
— Allied forces have destroyed the Libyan air force and are flying with impunity across its airspace.
— Analysts estimate many of Libya’s fast jets were no longer airworthy anyway.
— There are also Air Defence Command forces which possessed at least 216 surface-to-air missiles and 144 towed and 72 self propelled missiles.
— The West says Gaddafi’s integrated air defence system and command and control networks have been degraded to the point that the allied forces can operate with near impunity.
— According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Libya destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons in early 2004 as part of a rapprochement with the West that also saw it abandon a nuclear programme.
— The OPCW told Reuters Libya kept 9.5 tonnes of mustard gas at a secret desert location but could no longer deliver it.
Sources: Reuters/IISS Military Balance 2011 (Additional reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)