What do you do with your overpriced, non-combat tested and extremely unpopular Rafale and Eurofighter jets that no country in their right mind is willing to buy? You demonstrate their capabilities in an especially tailored war for everyone to see! Right now, France, followed by the UK, Canada and Norway, have started test driving those machines in an ongoing air campaign against Libya’s Russian-type tanks, aging air defenses and rapidly decaying air force.

Setting the stage

Following on the steps of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s popular uprisings, a group of Libyan insurgents tried to break free from the iron rule of long term dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. However, unlike Tunisia’s Ben Ali who fled the country right at the beginning of the unrest, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who was forced to step down without putting much of a fight, Gaddafi stood his ground and the revolt fizzled.

Gaddafi never lost control of the capital Tripoli, and retained control over much of his country. Only in Benghazi, the other big city in the East, were the insurgents able to retreat at first. After a couple of days of this stand off, Gaddafi ordered his air force to bomb an arms and ammunition depot there, effectively depriving his opponents from gaining further access to heavy weaponry.

However, despite its obvious military superiority, the Gaddafi regime wasn’t able to regain control of Benghazi; at least not as fast as analysts would have expected. Getting nervous, Gaddafi ordered air strikes against hot pockets of resistance. Those strikes were apparently quite effective, and managed to demoralize the insurgency in Benghazi. The rebels would probably have surrendered by now, if it was not for them being mortally terrified of Gaddafi’s desire for vengeance and retribution.

At this point, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy floated the idea of a no-fly-zone over Libya to deny Gaddafi’s air force access to the Benghazi rebels. He lobbied heavily for this concept, and managed to secure a declaration by the Arab League favoring no-fly zones over Libya.

Sarkozy’s relentless lobbying bore fruits shortly after that. On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1973, legitimizing the use of (air) force against Libya (but no boots on the ground). Most surprisingly, Libya’s long term ally Russia didn’t veto the resolution, nor did China: both countries abstained, together with India, Brazil, and Germany.

Without much ado, everything was fast tracked from then on. On March 19, 2011, Sarkozy announced the beginning of the war against both Libyan air force and tanks… and proudly told that Rafale aircraft have already prevented Gaddafi from attacking Benghazi.

The air campaign of France and some (but not all) other NATO countries is in progress right now, as I’m writing this.

Looking behind the stage

The real reason for France’s (and the UK’s) eagerness to attack Libya at this point is probably neither humanitarian concerns with the rebels, nor a particular hatred of Gaddafi and his antics, but the desire to promote France’s Rafale and UK/Germany’s Eurofighter combat jets by throwing them in a real combat situation.

First of all, there are other conflicts in the world, where rebels are being subject to the wrath of dictators, to which neither France nor the UK gave but a single thought. Secondly, after having given up his ambitions to build nukes, Gaddafi was soon again the darling of UK and US diplomats and governments. And third, Gaddafi and Sarkozy seemed to understand each other quite well, during Gaddafi’s visit in Paris just a couple of years ago.

Protecting the rebels (or, as the French have put it, “to assist the Libyan People”) is but a cover story for the real issue we’re facing here, and that is a story of weaponry marketing gone bad.

When Sarkozy was elected President, he set out to sell Dassault Rafale fighter jets to France’s closest allies, but was turned down everywhere he went. On his first stop, Algeria turned his jets down, because the Algerians were pretty much up in arms against his anti-Arab pre-electoral rhetoric and his saying that (french) colonialism didn’t have only negative consequences for the colonized countries. Tunisia didn’t have money to burn and turned down his offer for Rafales. Libya wasn’t too hot either, and didn’t bite. Morocco, angry with Sarkozy, because he visited their arch enemy Algeria first, and not really happy with the extremely high price tag of the Rafale used a big grant from Saudi Arabia to secure 24 F-16 Block/52 from the US instead.

Sarkozy’s Rafale woes went on and on, and many other countries turned the French offer down. Most of them were concerned that this modern aircraft was 1/ overpriced, 2/ not combat tested.

The Eurofighter did fare slightly better than the Rafale, as it was integrated in more than just one country’s air force. However, it isn’t an easy sell, because its planning lasted way too long and may thus contain planned obsolescence… and, of course, because it’s like other European gear, overpriced too. That’s why the UK, one of the main users of this type of aircraft, is probably eager to demonstrate its capabilities in the ongoing Libyan air campaign.

Lessons to learn

To Gaddafi and other leaders in his position, the current dramatic turn of events is an interesting lesson… and this lesson is: to benefit from the protection of a superpower, you must regularly buy their high tech weaponry.

First of all, had Gaddafi bought Rafales from Sarkozy back then in 2008, he could have used those fighter jets against the rebels right now without France saying anything about it. Instead, he’s now being pummeled by those very same machines he refused to buy. Sure, he couldn’t have used those Rafales against France or NATO, because they are certainly equipped with a tamper-proof kill switch, but that was never the point, right?

Secondly, had Gaddafi bought fighter jets from the Russians recently (as Algeria did), Russia would almost certainly have vetoed any UN resolution against him, instead of abstaining and letting him down. The same goes for Chinese tanks and ammo. If you don’t buy from your former weapons suppliers for quite some time, don’t expect them to stay by your side when push comes to shove.


I have no doubts that the countries attacking Gaddafi will prevail in a very short time and with very little own casualties / losses. Their air forces and navies are optimized to quickly win those kinds of military campaigns. As long as there are no boots on the ground that could be drawn into protracted urban warfare, things will go according to plans.

However, as much as the military outcome of the conflict is crystal clear, the middle and long term political consequences aren’t. By helping an opposition that was too weak to overthrow Gaddafi by its own means, and eventually putting that opposition in power, the UN Security Council may have just planted the seeds of a long and murderous civil war in this North African country. Because that eventual change of power wouldn’t have occurred in an “organic way” with the concerned parties duking it out between themselves, the losing party will resort to terrorism and urban warfare, just like what we’ve been witnessing in Iraq in the last couple of years.

Should the current air campaign result in a civil war instead of a peaceful transition of power, all the casualties of such a civil war will be the responsibility of Sarkozy and by extension of the countries of the UN Security Council that authorized 1973 or didn’t actively veto it.

Personally, I’d love to see Gaddafi ousted, rather sooner than later. But the price shouldn’t be a murderous civil war. Libyans are people too: they don’t deserve to live in Iraq v2.0


  1. Satellite 2510cds Battery

    So far Britain, Switzerland, Morocco, Brazil, Oman and UAE have decided not to buy the Dassault Rafale. India and Kuwait might (not) buy it.

  2. James

    This article is nonsense on many fronts and the author is a fool. his solution appears to be to allow qadafi to crush the protesters with military forces (because that’s the “organic” situation.)

    Whatever the political faults of the eurofghter and rafale programs, the fact of the matter is that they now exist and there is an opportunity for the outside world to bolster a genuine and plausible popular resistance movement against a dictator who has shown himself to be a threat not just to his own civilian population but also to his neighbors and the wider world. it is obvious that a large percentage of the rebels are actively calling for foreign intervention to help redress the balance–they have extreme numbers on their side, but simply lack military weapons.

    the situation is far different than in in iraq, where there was no legitimate popular uprising.

    you appear to completely contradict yourself as well – you seem to both say that a swift victory by anti-qadafi forces is both certain AND that the country will be mired in a protracted civil war. which is it?

    yes, there are other dictators in the world. but in no other world situation where such a credible opposition exists and which is actively is engaged in taking down such a regime. you appear intent to ‘blame the west under any circumstances’ while allowing a murderous dictator to stay in power even though he is clearly hanging on by his fingernails. disgraceful.

  3. Jimi

    Very nice blog text found very first from google search. Libya really seems to be a good adverticing place for different kind of fighter jets.
    Especially France needs this adverticing because it hasn’t sold any Rafale jets to any country, meaning their own fighter jet’s costs 1 billion euros a piace, if you divide all costs with the jets ever built.

  4. GNLD International

    Lets not get distracted about Libya! It is all about oil, & BP investments!

  5. you appear to completely contradict yourself as well – you seem to both say that a swift victory by anti-qadafi forces is both certain AND that the country will be mired in a protracted civil war. which is it?

    Actually, I said that a swift victory of NATO countries over the Gaddafi regime is certain and given. I don’t think that the internal opposition in Libya was strong enough to overthrow Gaddafi by its own means.

    Getting rid of the Gaddafi regime militarily would be just as swift as what happened to the Saddam regime. Both are no match at all to NATO, or even just parts of it. But the real problems could pop up later, when the defeated Gaddafi clan will resort to violence against civilians, planting IEDs etc…

    You can win a battle and you can win a war, but still not win the peace after the war.

    The point is that if the pro-Gaddafis are genuinely defeated by their own countrymen, they are more likely to admit this and to cooperate in building a post-Gaddafi Libya. If they are only defeated by outside forces, they may not swallow their defeat as easily, and could behave like the pro-Saddams in Iraq.

    See the problem?

  6. I am ashamed that we would get ourselves in confliction with Libya. Libya is not our war. Its just for the Oil. American, french and british people know this, dont know why they keep telling us on tv (cant remember exact words) that its a good thing to do.

    But now that its done,missiles have been fired, bombs have been dropped. Thats it.

    No point on going on about how we should never have entered. We all must hope that this doesnt more terrorists bombing us in future.

    Oh and about the Eurofighter and Rafale. This war was not started to test weapons.

    By any chance Fadrid. Are you American. Just saying because the F35 is a total failure. :)


    France has tested it’s planes for the first time in real time warfare.
    I believe Libyan Air-force has been drastically and to some extent intentionally reduced in size due to suspicions which the Qaddafi regime harbors against its own people.
    All Libyan fighters are ex-USSR vintage war machines.
    The running away of two defectors flying Mirage F1 to Malta is another testimonial in its own right!
    Saddam lost Gulf War 1 and 2 because he didn’t know how to use his air force . Well Saddam was not such a big fool, the reason why he didn’t opt to use his battle-hardened air-force was a politically motivated decision.
    Many Iraqi Air force commanders were not considered to be die-hard loyalist, so there was a danger that the Iraqi Air force might go after Saddam ‘s own head .
    I believe Libyan Leader now needs to pick his stuff and leave his country . Libya deserves peace and better leadership.

  8. Vivek

    The author of the article has a very far-fetched implausible idea.

    In popular perception arms exports are a very lucrative stream of cash and one worth going to war over. However the author needs to do his background research into the Rafale and Eurofighter programs before coming up with wild theories.

    The primary user for both aircraft are the countries that have developed it. While the Eurofighter has scored a substantial export order from Saudi Arabia (72 aircraft priced at about $7 billion). But as things stand today, the market for fourth generation aircraft is very limited. Only one competition from India for 126 aircraft (also involving the MiG-35, Gripan, Super Hornet and F-16 worth about $12 billion) is of any real importance and an air campaign over Libya isn’t going to make a lick of difference to that competition.

    Bottomline, while Eurofighter Gmbh and Rafale International may try to play up their ‘war-proven’ qualities, its not going to may any difference to their actual order book.

  9. Nice and smart issue, but I agree with author in general. Details (for me) is is slight differs.

    Lets try to put a some healthy conspirology into issue.

    Reuters in a last week put 20 reels with EF-Typhoons and Rafale fighters in its news download section.

    Reuters receive a ??? millions from UK and france goverments?
    Or advertising company for EF-Rafale was a paid from US goverment – and US goverment made a Reuters to place reels for free, costless for UK and France – just for a participation in Libiya war?

    Or Sarkozi wants to be a president instead a next nazi-like “white power” politicans? ;-)

    And wants to be a little skinhead for annoying arabs in France public ?????

    But clear that brits and frances take a big efforts to show their forth Generation aircrafts in best.
    They allow to place cameras on airfields, taxi ways, to shoot technicians and ever flare dispencers in details.

    War – is best advertising for a combat machine, like a fighter…..
    Air war in Libiya – great advertising company for EF and rafale began.

    sorry for poor english, hate that language and all english-spoken nations.
    Vive”la russia from poland to alaska, and from finland to persia….. :-)

  10. bingo

    It sounds one more conspiracy theory type of story. Is Sarkozy using the war to showcase the French plane? Maybe, but that is a secondary thought.

  11. Asian observer

    That’s an interesting angle.

    But there’s more: Asian Tribune reports that a West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center document, based on the so called Sinjar documents reveals that the per capita majority of foreign terrorists in Iraq originate from Eastern Libya… the very same region Obama is so keenly supporting:


    What’s going on here?

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