Country Listing

Libya Table of Contents



Because of a relatively low level of technical and industrial development--apart from the petroleum sector--since independence Libya has been forced to rely on foreign sources of assistance in its efforts to establish a credible military posture. During the eighteen years of the monarchy, the Idris government turned to the West for help in forging a national military system. In the process, the government entered into a number of treaties and other agreements of a military nature, particularly with Britain and the United States. One of the most important of these agreements was the Treaty of Friendship concluded in 1953 by Britain and Libya that included reciprocal pledges of assistance in case of an armed conflict. The treaty, which was to have remained in force for twenty years, granted the British continued rights to the use of military bases along the Mediterranean coast in exchange for extensive military supplies and training assistance.

Similar arrangements concluded with the United States a year later granted the use of Wheelus Air Base in exchange for military assistance grants and the purchase of excess stocks of American weapons. United States military aid was devoted mainly to the organization and development of the Libyan air force. Many of the personnel recruited to that new branch received American training, and most of the aircraft acquired during its early years were provided by the United States.

Since the mid-1970s, arms deliveries to Libya have originated predominantly in the Soviet Union and other communist countries. According to ACDA, these sources accounted for 60 percent of total military imports between 1981 and 1985. Such sources included the Soviet Union (US$4.6 billion), Czechoslovakia (US$875 million), People's Republic of China (US$320 million), and Poland (US$300 million). Major western sources were France (mostly naval craft previously ordered) at US$725 million and Italy, which provided transfers amounting to US$850 million. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was the only other significant West European source, furnishing US$180 million worth of equipment. Such other suppliers as Brazil and Yugoslavia accounted for a further US$2.6 billion.

Data as of 1987