Libya eyes new Russian jet fighters

Oct. 19, 2009 at 7:57 PM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Russia's Interfax news agency says Libya is considering a deal to purchase at least 20 Russian fighter jets as part of a $1 billion weapons contract.

"Libya is planning to buy 12 to 15 Su-35 multipurpose fighters, four Su-30s and six Yak-130 combat training planes from Russia," Interfax said citing an unnamed military source on Monday.

The source suggested that lucrative deals could be sealed "by the end of the year of the beginning of 2010." The contract is estimated at $1 billion, according to the military source.

The Su-35 features state-of-the-art avionics and a special radar, capable of detecting targets at a greater range, tracking up to 30 targets, and simultaneously engaging eight targets.

The aircraft's "super-maneuverability," as experts put it, is a result of a new powerful thrust vector control engine.

In establishing air superiority and attack on any air-, ground-, and sea-based targets in any conditions by day and night, the aircraft is capable of carrying a combat load of up to 8 tons of guided and unguided air weapons. It is attached to 12 external stations.

"Many of the contracts are already fairly well worked out from a technical viewpoint and are practically ready for signing," the unnamed source told Interfax.

"The financial aspects still need to be resolved."

A longtime outcast, Libya has made strong moves in recent years to rejoin the international community.

Late last year, for example, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi visited Moscow for talks on oil, natural gas and potential arms deals.

The visit suggested that Gadhafi, a onetime pariah, was maneuvering to play Russia and the United States against each other for commercial and political favors.

Experts concede that Gadhafi has been trying to mend ties with the United States and other Western governments after renouncing terrorism and efforts to build weapons of mass destruction.

His trip to Russia, in fact, showed that he had not closed the door on former Eastern Bloc allies, experts argue.

Much of the North African state's arsenal was purchased from the Soviet Union in the last years of the Cold War.

Earlier this month a Russian MiG-23 fighter jet crashed during an air show in a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli, killing the two-man crew and injuring several people on the ground.

The air show had been meant to showcase Russian fighter jets for potential buyers in North Africa.

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