PARIS — France will renovate Libya’s small fleet of Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jets and train its personnel as part of a defense cooperation agreement, Ministry of Defense spokesman Gérard Gachet said March 1.
“The collaboration with the Air Force is one of the major components of future military cooperation between France and Libya, through the restoring to condition of the Libyan armed forces’ Mirage F1 and the training of personnel,” Gachet told journalists.
A renovation of the French-built fighters was among the agreements made during a Feb. 24-26 visit to Libya by French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet, Gachet said.
Longuet’s visit was not aimed at selling French defense equipment, such as the Rafale fighter, but to help Libya evaluate its military needs and set the basis for cooperation, Gachet said.
France tried to sell the twin jet fighter to Col. Moammar Gadhafi soon after the West restored relations with Libya in 2005.
Libya has a fleet of some 12 Mirage F1 ground attack fighters, two of which were flown to Malta by dissident Air Force pilots when the uprising against Gadhafi began a year ago.
Those two Mirages were restored and flown back to Libya by French-trained Libyan pilots Feb. 22, a symbolic but essential operation that signaled Paris’ determination to build cooperation with the Libyan Air Force, Gachet said.
A planned French restoration of the small Mirage fleet and training for Libyan flight crews and technical staff was being studied, he said.
One of the Libyan priorities was control of its national borders, a task in which France would help, Gachet said.
Libya occupies a key position between Africa and the Mediterranean, and trafficking in people, arms and drugs had to “neutralized,” Gachet said.
Coastal surveillance, as part of a maritime security mission, was another area in which France could provide assistance. French personnel have been helping to de-mine Libyan ports.
Longuet met the chairman of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel, the prime minister, and his counterpart, Osama Jweli.
The meetings were intended “to evaluate the forms of a long-term cooperation from a military point of view,” Gachet said.
That cooperation would consist of helping the Libyan authorities to develop their military organization and express requirements for capabilities. The defense ministers signed a letter of intention to set up a joint committee to develop bilateral defense cooperation, Gachet said.
Working groups are studying the cooperation projects and would report to the joint committee, due to meet in Tripoli at the end of April or beginning of May, he said.