Two Russian MiG-29s Have Crashed In Libya According To Top American Intel Official

US Africa Command official provides dates of two MiG-29 losses and reiterates the jets’ connections to Wagner Group.

AFRICOM

U.S. Africa Command says that at least two MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, possibly piloted by shadowy Russian mercenaries, have crashed in Libya. Jared Szuba, the Pentagon correspondent for AI-Monitor, Tweeted out that one of the jets was apparently lost on June 28, while the other went down on September 7, 2020. This information had come in a statement from Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) director of intelligence.

Another tweet indicates that Berg believes that “Russian fighter aircraft,” presumably MiG-29s too, but potentially also Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft, have conducted airstrikes in Libya. AI-Monitor's Szuba follows that up by repeating AFRICOM’s assertion that the Russian aircraft are being operated by paramilitary contractors from the Wagner Group. This organization has very close connections to Russia’s Main Directorate military intelligence agency, better known by the Russian acronym GRU.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a video emerged on social media earlier this week apparently showing a Russian-speaking pilot after their aircraft went down in Libya. The second half of the clip suggested he was about to be picked up by a Mi-24 Hind gunship helicopter.

That two-minute video was not dated and it was inconclusive as to whether it showed a genuine rescue effort to retrieve a just-downed pilot, or if it was footage from a combat search and rescue (CSAR) exercise. While the video showed items consistent with ejection from a single-seat Russian-made fighter jet, and the pilot mentions that he ejected from his aircraft, no evidence of aircraft wreckage or smoke is visible.

The video was notably posted to YouTube on September 7, without explanation, by a user with the handle Fighterbomber. The same poster subsequently took to Instagram to claim that it actually showed a CSAR exercise, pointing to the lack of wreckage or smoke, and other supposed discrepancies, including the pilot’s lack of flying suit, and contending that the R-855 emergency radio beacon would not normally be carried on a combat mission. 

At least 14 Russian-sourced jets have been operating in Libya since May in support of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which has its main hub in the eastern city of Tobruk. The LNA is engaged in a civil conflict with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), headquartered in Tripoli.

The MiG-29s arrived at multiple bases in LNA-controlled eastern Libya following a brief stopover at the Russian-operated Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. In June, unconfirmed reports suggested that at least one of the Libyan-based MiG-29s had flown a mission over the strategic coastal city of Sirte. The sighting came as GNA forces attempted to regain control of the area before the opposing sides agreed to a ceasefire in August.

AFRICOM

Annotated satellite imagery provided by U.S. Africa Command showing two MiG-29s at Al Jufra Air Base, May 2020.

While AFRICOM has periodically released images of the Russian jets operating in Libya in the past, it may be hoped that similar visual or some other confirmation might be provided soon to confirm these two MiG-29 losses. In the meantime, we will be sure to bring you any important updates on this story. 

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com and joe@thedrive.com