Saturday, February 27, 2021

A look at the fighting in Libya as the “world’s largest theater for drone technology"

The Washington Post has a long article about the ongoing competition between Russia and Turkey to divide up Libya:

The concentration of weapons and multiethnic militias on sparse, desert terrain draws comparisons to George Lucas films. “It’s like the Star Wars bar scene,” a former U.S. official said.


To prop up Hifter’s ragtag operation, Russia printed billions in Libyan currency for him to pay out to regional militias, a gambit exposed when shipping containers stuffed with counterfeit notes were seized on a vessel in Malta.


The Russian Pantsir S-1 is a four-axle truck mounted with 10-foot missiles capable of shooting enemy aircraft — including drones — out of the sky. Hifter had a fleet of them, reportedly purchased by the UAE, and Russian operatives to show his forces how to use them.

The systems were expected to be among the most valuable pieces that Wagner brought to the fight, protecting Hifter’s ground forces from aerial attack as they advanced toward Tripoli across flat, exposed terrain.

Then, one by one, the Pantsirs started getting picked off. Turkish drones toyed with the lumbering vehicles, tracking their movements and turning them into charred husks. Adding to the humiliation for Wagner and Hifter, highlight reels started appearing online showing Pantsir after Pantisr stray into a Turkish drone’s sights, then disappear in a plume of smoke.