In North Africa, self-styled “Field Marshal” Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, one of the key members of the coup against the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of King Idris that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969 and current head of the so-called Libyan National Army, is flexing his military muscle and moving troops towards Tripoli.
Propaganda footage of the column, from the LNA:
Haftar today, now a wily 76-year-old, is an old-school warlord with a curious past and is arguably the most powerful single individual in North Africa.
After graduating from the Benghazi Royal Military College and attending an advanced course at Frunze in Moscow, the young staff officer was Gaddafi’s favorite for his role in the “White Revolution” that brought the wacky dictator and his Amazons to the sit on Idris’s throne.
By age 30, he was commanding the forces sent to help the Egyptians in the Sinai in 1973. By the late 1970s, he was Libya’s point man in the attempt to overrun French-allied Chad to the South.
However, as any historian of French colonial efforts since the 1600s will vouch, Paris does not cede influence without a bitter fight to the last colonial soldier and the nearly decade-long “Toyota War” that ensued– so named due to the fact that the Chadians were equipped with the easiest of 20th Century weapons: cheap commercial pickup trucks fitted with recoilless rifles and AAA guns.
Something like this:
It was epic.
In the end, with the help of some French Mirages and a few advisers/mercs/spy types that didn’t mind getting their hands dirty, the Libyans got licked good and by 1987 were driven back across the border in a rout, leaving behind shiploads of really nice Warsaw Pact tanks, APCs and accouterment.
Western intel loved it as it was a treasure trove of data ripe for the taking, as much of the equipment was “never used and only dropped once” unlike the often scorched and bloody battlefield debris often captured by the Israelis from the Egyptians and Syrians.
Among the detritus of war left behind in the deserts of Northern Chad in 1987 was Col. Haftar, captured along with his entire HQ staff and a battalion’s worth of his men.
While they were eventually repatriated, he elected to stay in the West and joined a U.S. supported opposition group, commanding a CIA-funded “brigade” in exile for almost a decade. He later slipped back into Libya in 2011 and in the morass that has been the country’s revolution and civil war, has been making a move to grab as much of the instruments of power as possible, with his LNA in bed with everyone from the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates to Moscow and Langley. The current push (or is it putsch?) is just a continuation of the book he has been working out of for 50 years.
One thing is for sure from the video of his guys moving towards Tripoli– Haftar, the proverbial cat with nine lives, learned from the Toyota Wars in spades. Most of his battle convoy looks more at home in a Mad Max movie. Hey, if it works…
The main weapon seems to be 23mm ZPU-23-2 twin anti-aircraft guns, single 12.7mm Dshkas, or quad ZPU-4’s with KPV 14.5mm HMGs mounted on Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series and Hilux series trucks.
The GNA, the UN-backed government in Tripoli, are lauching their own “Volcano of Anger” counteroffensive against the LNA, and have a similar “witness me” style armada of war trucks to back them up.
A backgrounder on the current situation, from France 24, should you be curious.
Swiss gun maker B&T had a very short Trident Arms-marked APC9K-SD model on hand at SHOT Show earlier this year that looked like a contender for the Army’s Sub Compact Weapon program, a move to buy up to 1,000 handy room brooms to replace aging HK MP5s used by personal security details.
It turns out to have been at the head of the pack, minus the integral suppressor.
More in my column at Guns.com
The sometimes beautiful tale of two hard-serving forward-deployed DDGs this week, waving the flag in far off ports.:
Porter, named for War of 1812 hero Commodore David Porter, and his son, Civil War Adm. David Dixon Porter, was built at Pascagoula and commissioned 20 March 1999. As such, the Flight II Burke doesn’t look bad for 20 years considering she has mixed it up with the Russians in the Black Sea, fired Tomahawks into Syria and survived a collision in 2012 with an oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. She is one of four DDGs assigned to Rota as part of the 6th Fleet.
Located on Gare Loch, Faslane is home to HM Naval Base, Clyde, home to the RN’s Trident fleet as well as the bulk of the country’s subs and minehunters.
Stethem, named for SW2 Robert Stethem, the Seabee diver killed by terrorists onboard TWA 847 in 1985, was also built an Ingalls while I worked there (and may or may not have my initials welded in her inner bottom somewhere). This early Flight I Burke commissioned 21 October 1995 and has seen lots of deployments in her 24-years of service. She is homeported in Japan, where the cherry blossoms (Sakura) are breathtaking this time of year.
As a side note, the best Asian John Denver impersonator I ever saw was in Yokosuka.
When the British Army unveiled its new recruiting campaign to flesh out the flagging ranks of non-Gurka units (whose own recruits have grueling doko run to weed out the masses applying for the annual intake), I, like many, scoffed. I mean, what’s not to joke about right?
Well, it turns out that the Snow Flake push has paid dividends. Reports contend that applications for the Army are at a five-year high and the ad campaign led to a 78% rise in website visits.
And with that, the latest ad for the Forces, which still goes tech/platform heavy and stirs the blood.
In much the same vein of making the military somewhat more appealing to the current generation, the U.S. Army National Guard has ditched their traditional Minute Man logo:
This is sad because the familiar National Guard Seal and Emblem, of course, has long featured a likeness of the famous Concord Minute Man statue in Concord, Massachusetts. The statue, first unveiled in 1875 by sculptor Daniel Chester French, symbolizes the local militia that stood to in an effort to halt the British Army’s 1775 seizure of arms and powder that sparked the Revolutionary War. The man, a farmer rather than a soldier, is holding a flintlock in his right hand while his left hand is still resting on a plow.
The National Guard further holds that its history predates the country, stemming from the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia which was founded in 1636.
Although today’s Italian marines trace their unofficial lineage back to the 16th century Fanti da Mar of the old Republic of Venice, the modern unit that houses them has a history somewhat newer. Formed from the old Great War-era Naval Brigade which saw much service along the Piave River, the Battaglione San Marco was established at the Piazza San Marco in Venice– to keep the tradition alive– on 17 March 1919.
Interestingly, the motto of the regiment, “Per mare, per terram” (By sea, by land), is the same as the British Royal Marines.
Now a 1,500-man brigade, the San Marcos conducted amphibious landings in Yugoslavia in 1941, trained to storm Malta (Operazione C.3) then went on to fight at Tobruk and Tunisia as one of the best Italian combat units of WWII. Post-war, they were reformed and went on to serve on UN duty in Lebanon and elsewhere.
Last week saw a celebration of their 100th anniversary, held, like the first, in the Piazza San Marco.
With small fast attack craft easier than ever to produce in swarms on the cheap in both manned and unmanned versions, it is nice to see the Gator Navy at least practicing on these as targets.
Of course, today its all just 25mm and 30mm guns as well as some .50s, but back in the old days ‘Phibs bristled with a mix of 3″ and 40mm cannon as well as a smattering of 5-inchers.
Speaking of which, the original first few vessels of the Tarawa-class LHAs– of which Boxer is a later Wasp-class LHD outgrowth off– toted a pair of 5-inch Mk45s forward for just such occasions as well as some NGF support ashore. Not well liked, they were removed to get a little more deck space.
Maybe its time to bring a few (bigger) guns back to the Gator Navy?