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Friday, March 11, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report: Gadhafi wields huge weapons arsenal, unchallenged air power

LONDON — Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi retains a massive weapons arsenal as his forces sweep through rebel-held areas of eastern Libya.


The International Institute for Strategic Studies asserted that Gadhafi commands thousands of forces, equipped with artillery, anti-aircraft and main battle tanks. In a report, the London-based IISS said the regime, which has been capturing rebel-held cities, wields unchallenged air power over its opponents, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Air assets used against rebel positions have so far included MiG23 Flogger and Mi-25/35 Hind attack helicopters," the report, titled "Libyan Rebels' Weapons Deficit," said. "Self-propelled artillery guns such as the 2S1 have also been deployed on the roads towards Tripoli. These are considerably more powerful than anything the rebels can muster."

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Authored by researcher Gary Li, the report said Gadhafi's forces, including T-72 MBTs, have been based around cities such as Misratah, Sirte and Tripoli, where they enjoy logistical infrastructure. The regime has also deployed around Tripoli, with an estimated brigade-size armored formation.

"The major advantage of the pro-regime forces at the moment is their ability to deploy air power," the report said. "Major airfields in Sirte and Tripoli are using Soviet-made fighter bombers to attack rebel strongholds. However it is not know if the large airfield and considerable arms cache in Hun, 280 kilometers south of Sirte, is still in the hands of Gadhafi's forces."

IISS, based on satellite images, asserted that the rebels, despite controlling one of the largest airfields in the country, have been unable to consolidate their weapons assets. The report said the rebels command no more than several mechanized units in Benghazi and Tobruk and armored battalions near Albayda, with assets including the obsolete T-55 MBT.

"Clearly, however, the rebel forces are not without supplies," the report, released on March 9, said. "The large arms depots outside Benghazi [Ar Rajmah], Misratah and Ajdabiya should provide enough heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars for a light fighting force. There is also a large artillery depot in the Western Fwayhat district of Benghazi, stocked with what appears to be BM-21 Grad multi-launch rocket systems. However, without proper planning and training, it would be difficult to bring these to bear in the eventual showdown at Tripoli."

The rebels, who lack basic logistical support, were also employing ZSU 23mm anti-aircraft guns and Type 63 107mm rocket launchers, the report said. Moreover, rebel units, already equipped with mortars and RPGs, have modified civilian pick-up trucks by installing large-caliber machine guns.

Despite overwhelming firepower, Gadhafi's forces were said to lack morale. The report said both ground and air strikes have been uncoordinated, raising questions whether the troops remained loyal to the regime.

"Even though the militias and volunteer groups are largely uncoordinated, a small group of former soldiers and officers have been attempting to organise a core of recruits trained in the fundamentals of warfare in Benghazi," the report said. "The time needed to ready these men will have a tremendous effect on the final assault on Tripoli."

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