Following LAVEX-2009, a Libyan aviation exhibition that was held in Tripoli in mid-October, it transpired that Libya and Russia are close to finalising a large arms deal, worth up to US$1bn. The contract covers an order for up to 20 fighter jets-between 12 and 15 Su-35 multipurpose fighters, four Su-30s and six Yak-130 combat training planes-and is in addition to existing contracts under which Russia is supplying military equipment for the army and navy, including upgrades to Libya's range of Russian tanks.
In the past, Libya has struggled to purchase military equipment, and much of its current arsenal is obsolete, having been purchased from the former USSR during the 1970s. As part of its deal to renounce its weapons of mass destruction programme, Libya secured an agreement from the US and other Western countries, including the UK, allowing it to rebuild its conventional arsenal. Both the UK and the US are both know to be interested in selling Libya military equipment, and the French are also known to be pushing hard to sell Libya fighter jets, helicopters, patrol boats and armoured vehicles in an even bigger deal worth more than US$5bn. Apart from the need to upgrade Libya's existing stock of equipment, the government is also keen to raise its military capabilities to match those of its North African neighbours.