Years of sanctions have taken their toll on Libya's military. The nation's military is a hodgepodge of (largely) Russian and western arms - including a fair amount of relatively older Soviet-era battle tanks, planes and artillery.
All the more painful, then, for the regime to lose this T-72 tank destroyed by a French air strike, in Shat al-Bedin, about 50 kilometers west of Benghazi. The T-72 was introduced to Warsaw Pact nations in the 1970s and served as a mainstay of Eastern European armies up through the 1980s. It's not competitive with the U.S. Abrams tank but it still constitutes a powerful battlefield presence.
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A Libyan rebel walks past a wrecked T-55 tank belonging to the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi.
Although no production figures have ever been released. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent downsizing of former Warsaw Pact nations, most of their inventories of T-55s got sold to countries like Libya.
Along with the similar T-54, this was the main battle tank for the Soviet bloc. Its light armor proved a big disadvantage against Western coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm.
Another oldie but goodie in its day - the T-54. With its round cast turret and 100 mm gun, the tank was a close relative of Russia's WW2 era mainstay, the T-34. Lots of variants have been developed since its debut in 1949. But upgrades can't hide its age and the T-54 is nowadays a relic compared with more contemporary tanks.
The T-90 is basically a modernized version of the &-72 tank produced by Russia. Everything that came with the T-72 has been upgraded. Among its features, the T-90 includes a 125mm tank gun, a new engine, and thermal sights. It also comes with an infra-red jamming system and explosive-reactive armor. You can read more about the T-90 here.
Libya reportedly signed an arms deal to acquire an undisclosed number of T-90s - along with other equipment - in Feb. 2010. It remains unclear whether Russia actually delivered the tanks.
The follow-up to the T-55, the T-62 was put into wide service in the 1960s. It was billed as the Russian answer to NATO tanks such as the Centurion and M48 Patton. But the Russian tank was behind the technology curve almost from the start as the West answered the challenge with superior models, including the Chieftain, AMX-30 and M60. Also, the development of a new 100 mm armor-piercing shell for the older T-55 undercut the economic argument on behalf of the more expensive T-62, which sported a larger and more powerful gun than its predecessor.
Before last week's bombing campaign, Libya had a reported 426 combat aircraft as well as 52 armed helicopters of varying vintage. Like the country's tank units, most of its air force consists of older, Soviet-made equipment, such as the Tupolev 22 supersonic bomber, which was retired from the Russian fleet in the 1990s but found its way into the arsenals of former client states, such as Libya, which became a major customer for second-hand Tu-22s.
A mainstay of the U.S. army during the Vietnam war, the M113 armored personnel carrier is a sturdy mechanized troop delivery vehicle. The big disadvantage: Its thin skin offers little defense against rocket propelled grenades or other more potent anti-tank weaponry.
An eight-wheeled armored personnel carrier dating back to the late 1950s, the BTR-50/-60 made its debut in 1961. During its first extended engagement in Afghanistan in the 1980s, its thin armor proved vulnerable to Afghan fighters with RPGs. Also, design flaws prevented operators from adjusting the gun turret higher to shoot at Mujahideen firing from higher ground.
The SA-9 (also known as the Strela-1) is a low-altitude infra-red guided surface-to-air missile system that was developed for short-range air defense batteries of Soviet motor rifle and tank units in the 1960s.
The SA-13, also known as the Strela 10, was the successor anti-aircraft missile to the SA-9. The missiles, which can reach speeds close to Mach 2, feature electro-optical guidance systems to hone in on targets.
Introduced in 1970, the MIG-23 was the first Soviet fighter plane to Union to include "look-down/shoot-down" capabilities. It was also the first MIG with side intakes on the fuselage. However, the MIG-23 fared poorly in direct confrontation with Western fighters. During the 1982 war in Lebanon, Israel downed more than 80 Syrian jets in dogfights - roughly 30 were MIG-23s.
The supersonic MIG-25 interceptor was Russia's answer to U.S. domination of the skies in the 1960s and 1970s. The aircraft was capable of reaching top speeds of Mach 2.83.
Libya's attack helicopters include the Mi-24, Mi-25 and Mi-35 were designed in the 1970s. They saw wide use with the Soviet army in Afghanistan until Afghan forces were equipped with Stinger heat-seeking missiles.
Another earlier Soviet-era surface-to-air missile, the SA-2 dates back to the middle of the 1950s. It gained first notoriety when the Soviets used an SA-2 to down Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane over the USSR in 1960.
Credit: National Museum of the United States Air Force.
The SA-3 was designed to target lower-altitude targets than earlier Russian-build surface-to-air systems. First deployed in the mid-1960s, it saw extensive service in the Egyptian and Syrian defense systems in the 1973 war with Israel. It also accounted for the only downing of a stealth aircraft when a Yugoslav battery hit a F-117 Nighthawk with an SA-3.
The French-designed ground-air Crotale NG defense battery can be deployed against fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters, cruise missiles, or even tactical missiles. It's a relatively modern system which went operational in the 1990s.