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Organization of the Armed Forces

The Army

In 1987 the army--by far the largest and most developed branch of the military forces--was still organized tactically in battalion formations. These included twenty tank battalions, thirty mechanized infantry battalions, ten artillery battalions, and two special forces groups comprising ten paratroop battalions. Air defense was organized into two antiaircraft battalions and six surface-to-air missile battalions. Two surface-to-surface missile brigades were equipped with free rocket over ground (FROG) and Scud missiles acquired from the Soviet Union.

Although the pattern of equipment purchases and the creation of divisional headquarters units suggested that a transition to a more integrated structure of mobile armored and mechanized infantry was contemplated, by early 1987 the shift to such an organizational form had not yet occurred. During specific deployments, as in Chad, units were brought together on an ad hoc basis. If the tank and mechanized battalions were to be consolidated into a more unified command structure, this would most likely be designed for planning territorial defense rather than for desert combat operations; the system existing in 1987 of independent battalions afforded more flexibility for desert combat.

In early 1987, the Libyan army was well outfitted with modern armaments, including rocket systems, armored vehicles for its infantry and artillery, engineering equipment, up-to-date Soviet infantry weapons, sophisticated fire-control systems, flame throwers and chemical munitions, and antitank guided missiles. Libya's more than 3,000 tanks gave it the tenth largest tank force in the world. Its range of tracked and wheeled armor, tank transporters, and air transport ensured it the necessary mobility to bring its forces to bear rapidly against any threat to its territorial integrity and enabled it to intervene in ventures far beyond its borders (see table 10, Appendix).

The army was nevertheless confronted by grave deficiencies. The high technological level of its equipment demanded a corresponding level of technical competence in operation and maintenance that the army lacked. Maintenance and repair problems were exacerbated by the diversity of arms sources--British, American, French, Soviet, Italian, and Brazilian. The numerous foreign advisers and technicians were insufficient to overcome low standards of support and logistics. To judge from the ability the Libyans demonstrated in Chad to sustain modern combat operations over extended supply lines, some progress was being made in correcting these problems.

The pattern of troop concentrations could not be determined precisely from published sources. Some troops were at the operational sites, including Tripoli, Misratah, Az Zawiyah, Surt, Benghazi, Darnah, and Tobruk, that were established at strategic points along the Mediterranean coast during World War II (see fig. 14). Others were at inland sites at desert oases, such as Sabha, and farther south, at Al Kufrah, which became the main base for operations in Chad. Areas adjacent to the Egyptian border, particularly along lines of movement, were also well defended. Many army units were scattered throughout populated areas, owing in part to their responsibility for training People's Militia units.

Few details were available on army training. The military academy at Benghazi, established before independence with British assistance, offered its cadets courses in higher education and military subjects to prepare them for active duty as junior officers. Qadhafi and other members of the RCC attended the institution, but it was closed after the coup. Later a military academy opened at Tripoli.

In 1985 a military engineering college (at an unspecified location) to provide training in all technical military specialities was proposed. The college was to have a four-year program leading to a bachelor's degree. At about the same time, the establishment of a reserves college with a one-year program leading to the rank of second lieutenant in the reserves was announced. Admission would be contingent on the attainment of a university degree or its equivalent and a demonstration of "adherence to the great Fatah revolution." Because Libya is not known to have an active reserve program, it remained unclear how the graduates of this institution would be used.

Data as of 1987

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