Libya obtained Scud-B and Frog-7 missiles from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Libya’s inventory of ballistic missiles consists of some 80 Scud B SRBM TELs and 40 FROG-7 artillery rockets TELs. It is believed that Libya possesses at least three times as many missiles as launchers.
Reports often cite Libyan interest in acquiring the Chinese M-9 or CSS-2, but to date no transfers of these missiles to Libya have been verified. Libya may also have attempted to purchase ballistic missiles from Brazil, but, as noted above, MTCR restrictions and U.S. pressure probably closed off that source.
Reports of an indigenous missile production program in Libya are persistent. The West German firm Orbital Transport und Raketen Aktiengesellschaft (OTRAG) shifted its development of a commercial space launch rocket from Zaire to Libya in 1979 and apparently had one or two rather unsuccessful tests there in 1981.(1) Reportedly, a 300-km range missile was first tested in 1980 and although the Germans withdrew formally under pressure from the Bonn government in 1981,(2) the latest test occurred in 1987. This may be explained by other reports that the head of OTRAG, Lutz Kayser, remained in Libya until the mid-1980s.(3) A London report further claimed that, in October 1989, about 100 German engineers were working on a 500-750-km missile system, code-named "Ittisalt," in a desert camp about 100 km from Sebha,(4) the site of the earlier OTRAG work and also the location of an alleged second Libyan chemical weapons complex. The missile work was reported to be in the research and development stage.
The involvement of Globesat, another West German company, in a separate Libyan missile project was investigated by the Munich public prosecutor in January 1989, but the case was dropped, apparently without an indictment.(5) One report asserted that a West German company called Technical Oil Production (TOP) was set up in 1984 as a front for missile component acquisitions for a missile project code-named al-Fatah ("the conqueror") and that TOP had exported rocket valve controls for that project.(6) The firm was found guilty and fined.(7) A later article, citing Israeli intelligence, said that the al-Fatah is a 1,000-km range system being developed under the management of "a number of foreign experts, some of whom have been identified by Israel as having worked on a Libyan missile program in the 1970s."(8) According to the article, in 1990, the liquid-fuel rocket motor of the al-Fatah was in the static test phase of development.(9) In 1993, Libya was reported to have tried to obtain 80 tons of ammonium perchlorate from Russia, via Ukraine, to produce solid propellants. The Ukrainians, under U.S. pressure, impounded the shipment.(10) By 1996, after more than 15 years of development, the al-Fatah is still not operational.(11)The indigenous 1,000-km range Al-Fatah missile, which as of early 2000 was claimed to be in the late stages of development, has not been flight tested. In 1999 US imagery intelligence satellites photographed Libyan efforts to enlarge a missile test facility as part of the Al-Fatah development program. Chinese technicians have been linked to the Al-Fatah missile program as early as June 1998. It is reported that the state-run China Precision Machinery Import-Export Co. and the Libyan government reached an agreement in March 1999 to help develop Libya's long-range Al-Fatah missile. Chinese technical assistance has reportedly included a hypersonic wind tunnel to be used for modeling and simulation. (12)
Given the apparent slow progress with the al-Fatah, Libya has been reported to be in negotiations with North Korea for the Nodong-1 (1,000-1,300 km/1,000 kg),(13).
1. Judith Miller, "U.S. Reported Concerned Over Uses of Commercially Produced Rockets," The New York Times, 12 Sept 81.
2. Aaron Karp, "The frantic Third World quest for ballistic missiles," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 88, p. 19.
3. The Sunday Correspondent (London), 8 Oct 89, FBIS-WEU 10 Oct 89, p. 12.
4. Ibid., p. 11.
5. The only firm named under investigation was Globesat Company for Applied Technology Ltd. According to the Deutsche Presse Agentur, "the firm is said for some years to have delivered electronic steering units and then a whole string of testing and measuring systems to Libya."
6. The Sunday Correspondent, 15 Oct 89, p. 3, FBIS-WEU 20 Oct 89, pp. 10-11.
7. "German firm fined for missile parts sale," Defense News, 16 Oct 89, p. 60.
8. "Libya trying to buy Chinese SSMs, says Israel," Flight International, 23-29 May 90, p. 18.
10. Alan George, "Ukraine slows Libyan missile progress," Flight International, 21-27 July 93.
11. The Nonproliferation Review, op. cit.
12. "Beijing Delivered Missile Technology To Libya, U.S. Says" By Bill Gertz, The Washington Times April 13, 2000, Pg. 1
13. David Wright and Timur Kadyshev, "The North Korean Missile Program: How Advanced Is It?," Arms Control Today, Apr 94, p. 10.