By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 22 November 2013:
Senior Libyan military personnel have been raising the profile of the Libyan Air Force at this . . .[restrict]year’s Dubai Air Show, the world’s largest civil and military aviation exhibition.
Representatives from the Ministry of Defence and the Air Force had the opportunity to discuss the country’s needs with some of the world’s top aerospace companies, including Lockheed Martin. Earlier this year, Libya said it wanted to buy two C130J Super Hercules aircraft. If this deal goes ahead, Lockheed Martin would be the main contractor.
Libyan representatives reportedly also spent time with Boeing. The US manufacturer said in September that Libya was interested in buying Chinook CH-47 twin-rotor helicopters. Reports at the time suggested that between six and 22 of the twin-rotary helicopters had been requested.
“All the world’s Air Forces have delegations here and my colleagues and I have had a great opportunity to study various equipment,” senior commander of helicopter operations in the east of Libya, Colonel Nasser Bousnina, told the Libya Herald.
Reiterating points made to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan during a recent visit to Benghazi, Bousnina said that the country’s Air Force needed support, including in areas of equipment and training. “To be strong, Libya needs its Government to support us, the professional military, and we, in turn, will defend our country and our people against both domestic and foreign threats,” he added.
The civilian airline sector was also represented at the air show, with new private airline Libyan Wings grabbing headlines by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus for seven new aircraft.
The outline deal would see Libyan Wings buy three A350-900 jets and four A320neos, with a list price of $1.3 billion. The new airline will be waiting some time for the planes, however. A350s will start being delivered in the second half of 2014, with the first planes going to launch customer Qatar Airways, which has 80 of the aircraft on order.
“The A350 and A320neo will play a significant role in ensuring that our new airline operates one of the most modern and efficient fleets in the Middle East region moving forward,” said Chairman of Libyan Wings, Wisam Al Masri.
Libyan Wings plans to launch operations in 2014. It will initially offer internal and regional flights serviced by two dry-leased A320 aircraft but is apparently planning a fleet of ten planes. “Libyan Wings is here to demonstrate that we intend to make an impact in this market as well,” Libyan Wings application manager Haret Alfasi said, at the signing ceremony. He added that Libyan Wings was “keen to play a role in helping to revolutionise and improve airport infrastructure in Libya”.
Despite a turbulent few years, Libya is seen as an attractive option for many international companies. UK-based Bristow Helicopters, which recently won a ten-year contract to run search and rescue operations for the UK armed forces, said Libya was one of 16 countries it had identified as offering potential opportunities.
Canada also sees Libya as an important trading partner, particularly in the area of education and training. Canadian company CAE, a world leader in training and simulation, was showcasing its flight simulators at the air show. With Libyan airlines still banned from flying their own aircraft in European airspace, pilot training and recertification are understood to be high on Libya’s agenda of aviation needs.
Yesterday, the last day of the five-day air show, was rained off due to inclement weather and severe flooding.