September 7th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Libyan missiles looted

CNN's Ben Wedeman and Ingrid Formanek reporting from Tripoli, Libya –

TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) - A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya.

They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, also known as Igla-S missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles.

A CNN team and Human Rights Watch found dozens of empty crates marked with packing lists and inventory numbers that identified the items as Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

The list for one box, for example, written in English and Russian, said it had contained two missiles, with inventory number "Missile 9M342," and a power source, inventory number "Article 9B238."

Grinch SA-24s are designed to target front-line aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones. They can shoot down a plane flying as high as 11,000 feet and can travel 19,000 feet straight out.

Fighters aligned with the National Transitional Council and others swiped armaments from the storage facility, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The warehouse is located near a base of the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit in Gadhafi's military, in the southeastern part of the capital.

The warehouse contains mortars and artillery rounds, but there are empty crates for those items as well. There are also empty boxes for another surface-to-air missile, the SA-7.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, told CNN he has seen the same pattern in armories looted elsewhere in Libya, noting that "in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles."

He said such missiles can fetch many thousands of dollars on the black market.

"We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya, and I've seen cars packed with them." he said. "They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone."

There was no immediate comment from NTC officials.

The lack of security at the weapons site raises concerns about stability in post-Gadhafi Libya and whether the new NTC leadership is doing enough to stop the weapons from getting into the wrong hands.

A NATO official, who asked to not be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said 575 surface-to-air missiles, radar systems and sites or storage facilities were hit by NATO airstrikes and either damaged or destroyed between March 31 and Saturday. He didn't elaborate on the specifics about the targets.

Gen. Carter Ham, chief of U.S. Africa Command, has said he's concerned about the proliferation of weapons, most notably the shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. He said there were about 20,000 in Libya when the international operation began earlier this year and many of them have not been accounted for.

"That's going to be a concern for some period of time," he said in April.

Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union counterterrorism coordinator, raised concerns Monday about the possibility that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in North Africa, could gain access to small arms, machine guns and surface-to-air missiles.

Western officials worry that weapons from the storage sites will end up in the hands of militants or adversaries like Iran.

The governments of neighboring Niger and Chad have both said that weapons from Libya are already being smuggled into their countries, and they are destined for al Qaeda. They include detonators and a plastic explosive called Semtex. Chad's president said they include SA-7 missiles.

An ethnic Tuareg leader in the northern Niger city of Agadez also said many weapons have come across the border. He said he and other Tuareg leaders are anxious about Gadhafi's Tuareg fighters returning home - with their weapons - and making common cause with al Qaeda cells in the region. Gadhafi's fighting forces have included mercenaries from other African nations.

The missing weapons also conjure fears of what happened in Iraq, where people grabbed scores of weapons when Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown.

Bouckaert said one or two of the missing artillery rounds are "enough to make a car bomb."

"We should remember what happened in Iraq," he said, when the "country was turned upside down" by insurgents using such weaponry.

There have been similar concerns in Afghanistan, where the United States provided thousands of Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahedeen when they were fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy them back, fearful that they would fall into the hands of terrorists.

 CNN's Emily Smith, Tim Lister, Joe Sterling and Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report

Filed under: FIRST ON CNN/EXCLUSIVE • Libya
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    September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  62. R

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    • CSCI132

      NATO has just supplied Al Qada, Muslim Brotherhood, and Hammas with a huge stockpile of weapons they would normally have had great difficulty getting. These terrorist groups are laughing at how easily NATO was played like a violin.

      September 9, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply
      • CharlieSeattle

        I agree! And it happened before.

        After the Iraq war the US troops secured the Oil Ministry and the oil terminals. Saddams ammo dumps were allowed to be looted even after the Iraqi people told the Americans it was happening.

        The US troops eventually got the looted ammo IED at a time.

        September 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
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    September 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
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  66. sofianitz

    Are we supposed to be surprised by this, or what? SA24 and SA7. Damn good weapons.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Reply
    • jessword

      damn good weapons? really? how come I don't remember reading about any nato planes being shot down with this supposedly damn good weapon? and why the english writing on soviet missile crates?

      September 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
      • CharlieSeattle

        Listen to the video report before you demostrate your ignorance.

        The 20,000 Russian made gound to air missiles are as good as the US made Stinger gound to air missile.

        September 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  67. Linda Rivera

    The Obama-supported rebels left in charge are now conducting a “large
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    Ruthless genocide of blacks in Libya by the US/NATO backed Al-Qaeda linked rebels has been going on for months. US/NATO who waged war for months for the Al-Qaeda linked rebels-who murder our troops in Iraq-are RESPONSIBLE for stopping the genocide.

    US/NATO are also responsible for
    rescuing the many blacks kidnapped by the rebels, including the
    kidnapped black children who have been horrendously abused by the
    black-hater Muslim rebels.


    September 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Reply
    • jessword

      Hi Linda, what does that have to do with the SAM's? This is about supposed looted/missing missiles.

      September 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  68. Linda Rivera

    Gaza has just acquired anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets from
    rebel-controlled Libya. Every Muslim terrorist organization on earth
    must be rejoicing over the US/NATO/Libyan rebel victory. As US/NATO won the war for the rebels, US/NATO is now responsible for removing these rockets from Gaza – rockets that will be fired on Israel’s civilians.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  69. Linda Rivera

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    September 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  70. jessword I the only one who has noticed that the writing on the boxes is in english? Why would russians sell an arabic country missiles that are in boxes with english writing? And why were no Nato planes shot down while we were bombing the bejeezus out of this country, with these supposedly dangerous "russian" missiles?

    September 8, 2011 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • Tom

      @Jessword, The markings are part of the UN campaign for transparency in conventional arms exports. Russia is a signatory. Obviously it isn't illegal to sell them, but they have to be marked in accordance with the register. For clarity English is used to avoid mistakes. Even before the register the Soviets exported many of their weapons systems with English stencils. For example Iraq. MANPADS are one of the classification of missiles highlighted inthe UN register. Russia has to declare the transfer hence the extensive export markings on the boxes.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      The missiles are manpads and they have a height limit. These types of missiles can be defeated by operating above the effective ceiling. NATO aircraft would be operating up around 15 to 20 thousand feet and using their weapons sensors from there. Think about Kosovo? The Serb military were extremely frustrated that they couldn't employ their MANPADS due to the tactics of operating at height. The Libyans had their large missile air defence systems and radars taken out and all they could do was hose the air with ineffective guns and fire missile for the most part blindly.

      MANPADS even within their effective range can also be defeated by countermeasures on aircraft and helicopters. French and British attack helicopters in Libya have been reported to have been fired on with MANPADS that were defeated by countermeasures such as flares.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Reply
      • CharlieSeattle

        Your grasp of the serbian air war is lacking. Many US planes were shot down by Russian SAM's.

        Downing of U.S. Fighter Over Bosnia Is Tied to Shortcoming of NATO Plane

        Published: July 08, 1995

        American military officials knew a hostile missile radar was tracking Capt. Scott F. O'Grady's F-16 fighter jet several minutes before he was shot down over Bosnia last month, but could not alert him because of a technical shortcoming on a NATO early-warning plane, military officials said today.

        A Pentagon report on the causes of the downing concludes that the NATO Awacs, which would have relayed the warning to the pilot, did not have equipment to transmit and receive highly classified electronic messages from American intelligence officials.

        By the time military officials finally relayed the warning to the Awacs plane through an unclassified radio transmission, a Bosnian Serb SA-6 missile had split the Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon in two.

        Defense Secretary William J. Perry and John M. Deutch, the Director of Central Intelligence, have both said military officials did well in collecting and analyzing the intelligence on the SA-6 missile, but a poor job in getting that information to the pilots.

        Gen. John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to outline the military's report on the downing of the plane on Tuesday at a hearing of the House National Security Committee.

        Military and industry officials said today that the investigation would also conclude that a Bosnian Serb radar, which did not show up on Captain O'Grady's radar, fed his location to the SA-6 missile, allowing its operators to aim and shoot before the pilot could detect the radar.

        Senior Pentagon officials say that about 12 minutes before the plane was shot down on June 2, a U-2 spy plane flying high over Bosnia detected the Serb radar tracking Captain O'Grady and another F-16 pilot.

        The U-2 automatically relayed that information to officials at the National Security Agency, which analyzes electronic transmissions. Agency officials confirmed the radar's location, and tried repeatedly to transmit that information to the NATO Awacs, using the Tactical Information Broadcast Service.

        But the NATO plane was not equipped with a terminal to receive the classified communications, military and industry officials said. Right now, only United States Awacs and some other American planes have the equipment, they added.

        About eight minutes before the downing, military officials desperately tried relaying the warning over an open transmission, but it garbled. By the time the Awacs plane received the alert, it was too late.

        Serbs down second Nato jet
        Sunday, May 2, 1999 Published at 05:51 GMT 06:51 UK

        Nato has confirmed that the Serbs shot down an American F-16 over western Serbia.
        The plane was hit during air raids early on Sunday morning.

        The pilot was rescued by allied forces after he ejected in an area near the Croatian border, and was taken to a Nato base for a medical examination.

        The F-16 is the second plane downed by the Serbs since Nato started its air attacks more than six weeks ago. The first was an F-117 Stealth fighter on 27 March.

        Secrets of 1999 F-117 Shootdown Revealed

        by Zord Gabor Laszlo
        Nov. 9, 2005

        With his early retirement last year from the former Yugoslav (now Serbia and Montenegro) military, one of the most successful surface-to-air-missile (SAM) battery comanders of recent times can finally tell his story on how he and his men shot down two US Air Force (USAF) tactical aircraft – an F-117 and an F-16 – during Operation Allied Force in 1999. Minor modifications to existing obsolete air-defense missile systems, survivability through mobility, and radio-frequency (RF) discipline led to those kills, he said.

        Although the name of Col. Dani Zoltan emerged earlier in some interviews with local media since 1999, it wasn't until October of this year that he was revealed to be the commander of the unit responsible for both manned aircraft kills by the former Yugoslav air-defense force during the NATO bombing campaign in 1999. The Serbian alias Gvozden Djukic had been used, instead, to describe the ethnic Hungarian commander in some propaganda articles, apparently in an effort to hide his ethnicity. With his retirement, however, he chose to reveal his true identity and the role he played in 1999 to the public.

        His unit, the 3rd battery of the 250th Missile Brigade, was responsible for the air defense of the Beograd area, together with other batteries of the same brigade. Equipped with the S-125M Neva (NATO: SA-3 Goa) command-guided SAM system (for more information on the Neva and other Soviet-made SAM systems, see "Castles in the Sky"), Dani's battery, however, had some key advantages over its sister units. According to Dani, this advantage was based on their previous research into the field of the detection, acquisition, and destruction of targets with low radar cross-sections (RCSs) or those employing low-observable technologies. He said he and his subordinate officers followed articles written about the F-117 since its emergence from secrecy, calculating at the same time how systems in service with the Yugoslav air-defense forces could possibly cope with such a threat. Finally, during the NATO power demonstrations in 1998 (held to ward off Serbia from its actions in Kosovo), he proposed minor, in-field technical modifications to the SAM system: one to the UNV antenna unit and the UNK-M control cabin responsible for missile control (NATO: Low Blow), with another modification to the P-18 (NATO: Dry Rack or Spoon Rest D) radar that provides target acquisition for each battery. His superiors declied to approved the modifications, though, saying instead that "this system simply cannot handle the stealth."

        Tough challenges to the Yugoslavian integrated air-defense system were on the horizon, but individiual initiatives were still not encouraged, even though they promised a chance to improve inferior systems. Just a few weeks before the air war started, Dani tried once more, but to no avail. At this time, however, he finally went ahead and implemented his proposed modifications within his own unit without higher approval, taking full responsibility. Altough he still declines to discuss particulars, it seems the alterations required little materiel, and the maintenance and servicing capabilities attached to his battery were up to the task of the "quick fix." The only specific Col. Dani would provide was that the modifications did not involve the use of the auxilliary Karat TV target-tracking system.

        In addition to technical modifications to increase the probability of successful engagement of low-RCS targets, Col. Dani also trained his unit to fight against the NATO air armada. Engagements using the shortest possible radiation of the fire-control radar were practiced over and over, and Col. Dani indicated that they focused on engaging targets well within the possible launch zone to reduce the time of flight of the missiles and, therefore, the reaction time available to the target aircraft. Dani's unit also received reservists who boosted his unit's manpower to approximately 200 personnel – in accordance with the standard wartime employment plan of a Neva battery. They also received two extra quad (4) missile launchers beyond the original four, and their stocks of V-601P missiles were boosted as well, in anticipation of a low kill probability and high missile consumption.

        On the first night of Operation Allied Force, March 24, 1999, the task of stopping the attackers fell to Yugoslav interceptors, and SAM activity was held back. Later on, however, when the clear beyond-visual-range (BVR) superiority of the NATO fighters became evident, the Yugoslav SAM and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) units took on sole responsibility for air defense. With a low kill probability projected, due to their admittedly inferior technology, the realistic aim of the Yugoslav SAM and AAA units was to stay alive as long as possible to distract the NATO strike packages from their objective. Forcing the NATO aircraft into evasive maneuvers that required them to jettison stores and tanks seemed more likely than actually shooting down aircraft. However, on day four, the 3rd battery of the 250th brigade succeeded in downing an F-117 – an act that clearly helped the Serbs in escalating the propaganda war to win public support, while at the same time, dealing a blow to the West. Dani said his unit shot two missiles with the target flying head-on at the battery at an altitude of 8 km at a range of 13 km. The whole engagement took only 18 seconds. Following standard operating procedure, he was sitting in the UNK-M cabin in front of the remote display of the P-18 radar, supervising his crew's combat work.

        Although Dani acknowledged that they received information updates from the central command and control (always through landlines – no radio and no cellular communications), he said they wandered almost randomly around the sector they were assigned to protect. While on the move, Col. Dani's unit had to avoid detection by NATO forces and the attacks that would be sure to follow, then find places from which they had the highest probability of disrupting enemy air operations. Most of the time the actual firing unit, held closely together by Dani, included only those elements required for a short engagement: the missile-guidance radar, two (instead of four) quad launchers, acquisition radar, and generators. Setting up in just 60 minutes from transport configuration to firing position (preferably near vegetation offering natural concealment), this "core" of the battery usually stayed in one place no longer than a few hours. According to Dani, his battery covered approximately 100,000 km during the 78 days of the war, mostly at night in blackout conditions and without a single road accident.

        Beyond frequent relocation, RF discipline contributed to the 3rd battery's eventual survival, and the unit suffered no human or materiel losses at all. Radiation time of the fire-control radar was kept to a minimum, although with the P-18 they could be more liberal, as this VHF radar – according to their experiences – could not be targeted by NATO's High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs). Even with this precaution, though, they were forced to cease radiation and/or missile control 23 times when it became evident from the target-return fluctuations or other indications that a HARM had been launched at them. False transmitters in the vicinity of the battery's location were also used to spoof the anti-radiation missiles. Dani added that the survivability of the VHF P-18 is the single biggest reason for the command-guided Neva system's success compared to the semi-active Kub (SA-6) system. The Kub's radar complex, the SURN (NATO: Straight Flush), which operates on a different wavelength from the P-18, was more vulnerable to NATO HARMs. While the Neva battery was not vulnerable to HARMs during the detection/acquisition phase of the engagement, the Kub exposed itself from the beginning of its search for targets. (For more on the SAM threat faced by NATO during Operation Allied Force, see "The Evolving SAM Threat: Kosovo and Beyond.")

        The retired colonel also suggested that his battery used primarily its own resources (mostly the P-18 radar and visual observation) to build a faint picture of situational awareness and to understand NATO operations for later use. However, this is not entirely true, as it is now known that the US didn't vary the flight paths of its F-117s, so their locations could be predicted to a certain extent. Serb forces also often received phone calls from just outside Aviano Air Base in Italy, alerting them when a NATO aircraft had taken off. Combining these two pieces of intelligence, it would not be too difficult to determine where an F-117 was at any given time (see "Shrewd Tactics May Have Downed Stealth Fighter").

        Dani declined to say how many missiles they launched during the war beyond the four fired at the F-117 and the F-16, although he did confirm that "several" missiles fired by his unit missed their targets.

        September 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
      • Tom

        @ CharlieSeattle, (I find that I can't reply to yours so I will insert it here)

        My reply was in relation to Kosovo. Kosovo was Operation Allied Force in 1999.

        Two US manned aircraft shot down in 1999 is not MANY. An F-16CG on 2nd May 1999 and an F-117 on 28th March.

        Even prior to 1999 the losses of manned aircraft were also very light considering the number of missions flown.

        You reference Captain Scott O'Grady's F-16 but fail to mention any others. You question my knowledge but fail to
        list the others.

        One French Air Force Mirage 2000D was shot by a SAM down over Bosnia by the Army of Republika Srpska on 30th August 1995. The crew ejected and were captured.

        One UK Royal Navy Sea Harrier FRS.1 was shot down over Bosnia on 16th April 1994 by a SAM. The Pilot ejected and escaped and evaded to safety.

        The Yugoslav Ministry of Information was so desperate to produce NATO shootdowns for their populace that they were caught out in a blatant lie. They broadcast an audio of a NATO pilot Mayday and claimed that it was from 1999. The actual audio was from the 1994 Sea Harrier shootdown.

        That is not MANY as you suggest.

        September 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
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