Libyan Navy

Libyan Navy
Libyan Navy
Active 2011-present
Country Libya
Type Navy
Size unclear
Part of Military of Libya
Libya (orthographic projection).svg

The Libyan Navy was the maritime force of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, established in November 1962. It was a fairly typical small navy with a few missile frigates, corvettes and patrol boats to defend the coastline, but with a very limited self-defence capability. The Navy has always been the smallest of Libya's services and has always been dependent on foreign sources for equipment, spare parts, and training.

Its first warship was delivered in 1966. Initially the effective force was limited to smaller vessels, but this changed after the rise of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 1969. From this time, Libya started to buy armaments from Europe and the Soviet Union. The Customs and Harbour police were amalgamated with the Navy in 1970, extending the Navy's mission to include anti-smuggling and customs duties. The total personnel of the Libyan Navy is about 8,000.

During the 2011 Libyan civil war several elements of the Libyan Navy were destroyed by NATO forces, including 8 warships in the night before 20 May and one on 17 August.[1][2] Two were also captured by the rebels at Benghazi.



The Navy's primary mission is to defend the coast. A strengthening of the service was made in the 1970s; the Soviet Union sold six Foxtrot-class SSK submarines, and though two of them were only averagely serviceable, they became the main threats to the US Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. In the meantime, Libya bought four Russian Nanuchka class corvettes, that even in the export versions were well-armed and powerful ships. Another four Assad class corvettes were acquired from Italy. These had Otomat long range missiles (in the Mk.I version without datalink for in-flight course correction) and modern artillery. They were less well-armed as anti-aircraft ships than the Nanuchkas but, with a displacement almost twice that of a typical FAC, had ASW capabilities, with sonar and light torpedoes.


Burning Libyan corvette, 1986

Libya's Navy first saw military action during an encounter with the United States Sixth Fleet in March 1986 in the Action in the Gulf of Sidra (1986), when one missile boat and a corvette were destroyed, and other ships were damaged by A-6s. Unusually, some of these attacks were performed, successfully, with CBUs like the Mk.20 Rockeye designed as an anti-tank weapon.

In July 1984, the Ro-Ro ferry Ghat is believed to have mined the Red Sea a few kilometres south of the Suez Canal. Approximately nineteen ships were damaged, including a Soviet container ship which was the first to be hit on 9 July. The Islamic Jihad Organisation took responsibility for the incident, however Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak did not believe the claims and blamed Muammar Gaddafi and Libya. Other sources agreed after it was learnt that the ship took fifteen days to complete a voyage that normally would take eight days, the head of the Libyan minelaying division was on board, and that, when inspected by French officials in Marseilles the aft door was damaged. Due to concerns about the safety and potential lost revenue from the canal, Egypt asked for assistance in sweeping the mines in a complex operation that involved mine-hunters from the French, British, Italian, Dutch, and US navies. The British located a Soviet-made mine, which was most likely sold to Libya after 1981 and was laid to cause problems for Egypt.[3]

Broadcast by US forces during the 2011 military intervention in Libya warning Libyan vessels of the naval blockade

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libyan Navy missile boats docked in Tripoli and began bombarding opposition controlled residential areas outside the city center leading to many casualties.[4] On 25 February 2011 naval officers in the rebel controlled areas declared their full support for the 17 February movement against the government.[5] Anti-government forces claimed that the Libyan navy shelled rebel positions during the Battle of Ra's Lanuf.[6] They also conducted a naval landing operation with four boats to flank rebel forces in Ra's Lanuf[7] On 9 July 2011, several light inflatable craft were destroyed by NATO warships when they were on their way to attack the rebel held city of Misrata. One of the NATO ships involved in the action was the HMS York.

On 17 August 2011, an RAF Tornado GR4 struck a moving Libyan Navy patrol boat with Paveway IV bombs. The boat had been observed supporting pro-Gaddafi forces during the Second Battle of Zawiya.[8]

Ships (1985)

A starboard quarter view of a Libyan (Italian-built) Assad class missile corvette underway, 1982.
  • 1 × Vosper Mk.7 frigate, Dat Assawari, (Built in UK, 1×114 mm Mk.8 gun, 2×40 mm/70 AA guns, 2×35mm/90 Oerlikon, 2×Seacat SAM, 1×Limbo Mk.10 ASW mortar. Upgraded in the 80s with Aspide SAM, OTOMAT SSMs, new search radar and other equipment)
  • 4 × Assad class corvettes (Built in Italy, 1×76 and 2×35 mm guns, 6 tls, 4 OTOMAT)
  • 3 of 4 × Nanuchka class corvettes, one sunk by US Navy in 1985. One damaged 25 March 1986, repaired in USSR 1990
  • Some light units of Osa and Jaguar class (16×SS-12 missiles and 2×40 mm)
  • 3 × Polnocny class landing ships
  • One LSD ship
  • Some minor vessels

Ships (2006)


Libyan frigate Al Ghardabia in Valletta, 2005.

2 × Koni class frigates (Type 1159) (one operational)

  • 212 Al Hani: (Captured by Rebels at Benghazi)
  • 213 Al Ghardabia: (struck by NATO in Tripoli Harbour 20 May 2011).


  • 4 × SS-N-2C Styx SSMs
  • 2 × SA-N-4 SAMs
  • 4 × 76mm guns
  • 4 × 30mm guns
  • 4 × 406mm torpedoes
  • 1 × RBU-6000 A/S mortar
  • 20 mines


2 × Nanuchka class corvettes

  • 416 Tariq-Ibn Ziyad: (Captured by Rebels)
  • 418 Ain Zaara: (struck by NATO, 20 May 2011)


  • 4 × SS-N-2C Styx SSMs
  • 2 × SA-N-4 SAMs
  • 2 × 57mm guns MFPBs


9 × Combattante II fast attack craft (7 operational)


  • 4 × Otomat SSMs
  • 1 × 76mm gun
  • 2 × 40mm guns
A port beam view of the Soviet built project 205ER (NATO code Osa II) guided missile boat El Mtkhur (525) underway.

12 × Osa class missile boats (Type II) (4 operational)


  • 4 × SS-N-2C Styx SSMs
  • 4 × 30mm guns

Mine warfare vessels

9 × Natya class minesweepers (Type 266ME) (5 operational)


  • 4 × 30mm guns
  • 4 × 25mm guns
  • 2 × RBU 1200 A/S mortars
  • 10 mines
  • Acoustic & Magnetic sweep

In addition to several auxiliary and landing craft.

Oceanographic Research Ship

Nour, a former trawler converted in the 1970's. was stricken in 2002.


Libyan Foxtrot class submarine, 1982.

6 × Foxtrot class submarine (2 left but probably abandoned)[9]

Libya received six Foxtrot-class military submarines from the Soviet Union in 1982. However, no submarine patrols were conducted after 1984, one submarine was reported sunk in 1993, and another one was abandoned in Lithuania due to international sanctions. Reports circulated about one submarine being refitted in 2003, but it is very unlikely that the submarines are still operational as of 2011.[9]

Naval Infrastructure

Naval bases in the 2011 Libyan civil war

  • Khoms (bombed by coalition air strikes on 20 May 2011, under opposition control)[10]
  • Benghazi (under the opposition control)
  • Misrata (under the opposition control)
  • Tobruk (under the opposition control)
  • Tripoli (bombed by coalition air strikes on 20 May 2011, under opposition control)[10]
  • Derna (under the opposition control)
  • Sirte (bombed by coalition air strikes on 20 May 2011, under opposition control)[10]

Ship maintenance and repair facilities

Facilities at Tripoli with foreign technicians for repair of vessels of up to 6,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT); a 3,200-ton lift floating dock; floating docks at Benghazi and Tobruk.



  • Levie, Howard. Mine Warfare at Sea. Dordrecht, NL: Martinus Nijhoff, 1992.
  • War machines encliclopedy, Limited publishing, in Italian version Armi da guerra.
  • Annati Massimo, Al diavolo le mine!, RID magazine, Coop Riviera Ligure, Italy, June 2005.

External links

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