The Libyan Air Force (القوات الجوية الليبية) was originally established as the Royal Libyan Air Force (Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Malakiya al Libiyya) in 1951. It was initially equipped with transports and trainers aircraft: Douglas C-47s and Lockheed T-33s. While, the Northrup F-5 Freedom Fighters were delivered starting 1967.
With Gaddafi seizing power in 1969, the name was changed to the Libyan Arab Republic Air Force (LARAF).
It appeared later the serviceability of the F-5s were diminished; and been reported most may have been sold to Turkey.
With the assistance of the former Soviet Union, the LARAF embarked on a massive rearming effort, acquiring a large number of MiG-17/19/25 (MiG-25PD, MiG-25RBK, MiG-25PU and MiG-25RU) fighters and Tu-22 bombers and Mil Mi-24 Hind heavy attack helicopters.
In 1971, eleven (11) civilian C-130's were delivered by the USA, later converted in Italy to military configuration. Subsequently four C-100-30's were purchased from the Philippines and Luxembourg in 1981. In 1976, Twenty (20) CH-47 Chinook were acquired from Italy. Later in 1990s, 14 were transferred to the Libyan Army (Air Wing).
Dassault Mirage combat and advance trainer aircraft were delivered between 1978:1979 consisting of sixteen (16) F1AD day fighters, sixteen (16)F1ED multirole and six (6) F1DD two-seaters (38 total).
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation military support was substantially decreased . The last major delivery of former Soviet era aircraft was fifteen (15) Su-24 Fencers in March/April 1989.
Due to the UN embargo in 1992 (Lockerbie bombing), the rearming effort was halted while immediately after UN sanctions were lifted in early 1999. Libya initiated negotiations with the Russia Federation covering upgrades for its MiG-21s and MiG-25s, while expressed interest in MiG-29s, MiG-31s.
In January 2008 Libya acquired four ATR-42MP maritime patrol aircraft
Accoring to Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - North Africa (dated: Jun 06, 2011) the Libyan Air Force:
Despite possessing a substantial force of combat aircraft, operational potential is poor due to inadequate maintenance support, deficiencies in training and very low levels of tactical awareness.
While Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber, chief of staff of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn stated (Dated March 23, 2011, Source: Voice of America
"Libyan air forces have been interdicted or atritted," said Admiral Hueber. "Those aircraft have either been destroyed or rendered inoperable. We have no confirmed flight activity by regime forces over the past 24 hours."
Commander of the Air Force: being incorporated
Air Force Personnel Strength: 18,000 (prior to the fall of Gaddafi)
- Combat: 386 (total), 266 (last known in service), currently unknown
- Transport: 88 (total), 83 (last known in service), currently unknown
- Helicopters: 201 (total), 124 (last known in service), currently unknown