The Turkish Air Force (THK) will train Libyan fighter pilots under a new military agreement signed in İstanbul on Tuesday.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met with Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, prime minister and defense minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli, who visited Turkey for the SAHA EXPO Defence & Aerospace Exhibition. According to the agreement signed by the two, Turkey will help increase the efficiency of the Libyan Air Force.
The training of Libyan pilots can be seen as the next step after Turkey recently sold the Hürkuş (Free Bird), a tandem two-seat, low-wing, single-engine, turboprop aircraft developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to Libya.
The THK announced in May that the Hürkuş-B training aircraft would be exported to Libya and that the final contract was signed by the Libyan Air Force Command and TAI.
According to reports in the Turkish media, six of the 14 training aircraft in TAI’s inventory were to be delivered to the Turkish Air Force, and six to Niger and Libya. It is still not clear exactly how many aircraft will be sent to Libya.
Libya and Turkey are actually two countries with very different fighter jets. While Turkey has US-made F-16s and F-4s in its inventory, Libya has Russian Mig and Su aircraft and two French Mirage jets.
Retired colonel and military pilot Yüksel Akkale, speaking to Nordic Monitor, thinks the difference in inventory will not pose a big problem in basic pilot training. According to Akkale, a pilot who acquires basic skills receives further training in the aircraft he will be assigned to fly. For instance, Turkish pilots who have completed flight school also receive six months of combat readiness training for the aircraft to which they are assigned and obtain certification for aircraft such as the F-16, F-4 and A400M.
The THK has previously trained pilots from Albania, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bosnia.
Akkale claims that the agreement with Libya has political meaning rather than operational value. Answering the question of whether Turkish and Libyan aircraft can work together in the eastern Mediterranean, he notes that Libya is not able to patrol the eastern Mediterranean with its own aircraft, that the distance is too great, and that it requires complex planning and experience in air refueling. He suggests that Turkish and Libyan pilots are more likely to conduct joint training and patrol flights in Turkish airspace.
In June, Nordic Monitor reported that The Turkish government has continued to pour arms and materiel into Libya in a blatant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on arms transfers to the war-torn North African country.
In a report submitted to the Security Council on May 24, 2022, UN investigators concluded that the Turkish government was continuing to violate UN sanctions by transferring military articles and providing lethal training to Libyan factions.
The UN assessed that most of the military training provided by Turkey to the Government of National Unity falls under the sanctions regime and thus violated UN Resolution 1970 (2011). It said the only exemption would be for some types of training such as ordnance disposal that may be classified under humanitarian training. However, combat training, special forces training and sniper training are barred by the UN Security Council, the report underlined.
According to a Turkish Ministry of Defense statement on November 30, 2021, the Turkish army had completed the training of 6,799 Libyan soldiers, with 974 still in training.
It is no secret that in addition to supporting the government, which is ideologically close to him, Erdoğan repeatedly said Libya’s oil and gas resources were important factors in Turkey’s interest in the country. Speaking at a joint news conference in 2020 Erdoğan revealed his plan for Libya’s oil reserves. “We aim to expand our cooperation including exploration and drilling operations to take advantage of natural resources in Libyan territory,” he said.
Turkey and the GNU in November 2020 signed a military cooperation pact along with a maritime demarcation deal. The maritime agreement, which is not recognized by any Mediterranean country, determines the Turkey-Libya continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while the security deal allows the Turkish government to deploy its troops in Libya.