Posts Tagged Libya

A partial chronology of the use of drones in Mali.

In June 2012 Drone Wars UK discussed a mysterious strike on a convoy of trucks in Northern Mali, and argued that the strikes may have been carried out using an American drone, though this was neither confirmed nor denied by US officials. (Predator drones were known to be flown in the area at that time-ed).

In October 2012 the French government announced that it planned to send unarmed reconnaissance drones, Harfangs from 1/33 Belfort squadron, to aid its military presence in Mali, as its soldiers were fighting an Al-Qaida backed insurgency. In January the government announced that the deployment of the Israeli made drones had taken place. This video of French paratroopers being deployed was taken by a Harfang drone. Harfang drones are from the Heron family of drones produced by IAI of Israel.

In early 2013 Wall Street Journal reported that some military in the US were calling for US armed drone strikes in Mali (but none seem to have happened, at least not with public knowledge-ed).

In February, Le Monde announced that American drones were being used to support French troops in Mali.

In March 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that US Reaper drones were providing targetting information for French airstrikes against insurgent positions, as many as 60 strikes a week.

Europe 1 reported that a dozen Al Qaeda in Maghreb fighters had been killed by French forces with the help of a surveillance drone on the night of March 4.  It was claimed that the strikes killed prominent insurgent Oumar Ould Hamaha.

In April 2013 an American Reaper drone crashed in Mali, due to ‘mechanical failure’. The drone had been one of two based in Niger to provide drone surveillance to support French forces on the ground. These in turn had replaced Predator drones deployed earlier.

In May 2013, RT online reported that France planned to buy two US made Reaper drones for its Mali operation. This French satirist mocked the French drone deployment.

In April France said it would buy 12 US Reaper drones to replace its Harfang drones. Reuters reported that the French had found that they had a shortage of drones suited to the conditions and had been using camera-equipped Cessna airplanes for surveillance, which had proved inadequate. (Apparently the US had flown reconnaissance piloted airplanes over Northern Mali for several years previously).

Reuters reported that France had eventually received delivery of two Reaper drones and that those would be operating in Mali by the end of 2013. The Hill reported that the two Reapers were the first of 12 acquired in a deal done with US based General Atomics in June and, incorrectly it seems, that the drones would be armed with US Hellfire missiles. The Hill also reported that the initial two drones, at least, would be operating from a site in Niger. Defence Web reported that the sale of Reaper drones to France had been approved in August 2013, and that a total of 12 drone with four ground stations would be delivered by  2015 or 2016.

In early 2014 the published photos of a joint drone base operated by the US and France, located near Niamey, the capital of Niger. The Medium speculated about whether drones from the base would conduct armed attacks, and whether the unarmed French Reapers would be eventually armed. Defense News reported that the first French Reaper flight occurred, in early January, 2014 from the base in Niamey, using US-equipped sensors.

In the first week of March, 2014, France claimed to have killed Omar Ould Hamaha, insurgent leader, using information supplied by a Reaper drones. The same week it was claimed that French forces attacked and killed insurgents at a rocket cache in Mali, with the help of drones.

In July 2014, French President Francois Hollande visited Niamey, and was greeted with a fly-over by French Reaper drone. Later the French military showed off footage of the visit to Hollande, who could pick out members of his entourage. At this point France continued to have two Reapers and one Harfang drone based at their Niamey base. (Three Mirage jets were based in Niger and three Rafale jets in Chad, but it isn’t clear whether the Mirage jets were bases at Niamey). The Bloomberg article detailed some of the business interests that France has in Niger and the region.

Also in July, a French Reaper was the first to spot an Algerian passenger plane that had crashed in Mali.

In September 2014 an article in the Washington Post reported that the US was building another drone base in Niger, at Agadey. The article speculated that the US would discontinue using the joint US-France base at Niamey, though it didn’t say what would happen with the more than 100 US troops deployed there to protect the base.

By late 2014 concerns were being raised about the US base in Agadey, because of local resentment and fears that the based would draw extremist attacks on the town. Concerns were also raised that France and the US were more concerned with securing mineral resources in the region than in fighting terrorism. An FT article also noted growing instability in the region and noted the difficult of France to monitor the situation.

French, Malian, and UN troops were still being attacked and in October French forces intercepted an arms shipment from Libya bound for Malian insurgents.

In early October 2014  French forces destroyed an arms convoy from southeast Libya being sent to insurgents in Niger. The convoy had been followed from Libya by a French Reaper drone. Fox News also reported that French troops supported by US intelligence planned to move north toward the Libyan border. Voice of America reported that both the US and France were marshalling forces further north to cut off growing insurgency in southern Libya.

This article outlined many objections to the use of drones by France. This article from Jurist outlines the general background of US intervention in Africa.

This article is incomplete, particularly with respect to the large number of airstrikes know to have been carried out in Mali against insurgents, with the help of drones. Any further information or direction to sources gratefully received.


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Belgian arms company Herstal takes over Sussex machine gun maker

Manroy, the British arms company with a manufacturing facility in Beckley, East Sussex has agreed to be purchased by the Belgian arms company Herstal. Manroy’s main products are heavy machine guns and turrets.

Originally a small company selling heavy machine guns to the UK military, a few years ago Manroy was taken over by aggressive  new owners who planned large expansion and took the company public. They also purchased a troubled American arms company.

Recently Manroy’s plans had fallen on hard times as arms budgets dropped, but especially as a result of Arab Spring. Before Arab Spring the UK Conservative government had pushed to expand British arms sales to countries previously forbidden, including several repressive regimes. Manroy was attempting to sell arms to Libya’s Gaddafi (with the full support of the UK government) when British policy towards Gaddafi sudden shifted. Quickly following, the government was forced to abandon plans to expand arms sales to many of the repressive regimes it had previously targeted.

Manroy’s ambitious expansion plans were never realised, and the company was eventually put up for sale, culminating in the acquisition by Herstal this week. Conditions of the sale included shearing the American branch from the British company.

It isn’t clear whether the huge Belgian arms company will maintain a presence in the sleep Sussex village of Beckley.



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East Sussex Machine Gun Manufacturer Manroy Engineering Expands

Manroy is an arms company with a manufacturing plant in Beckley, East Sussex, and a head office in Essex.

Manroy has added two companies that enable it to expand its range of weapons. One is Kent based RJL Engineering Services and the other is Base Enamellers, of Erith, Kent. Base Enamellers claims to have approvals for most major defence contractors, so is already an arms company. 50% of its income previously was from Manroy. Manager of the new Base (Manroy) enterprise will be Damon Batstone, once a manager at Thales, in Crawley.

The purpose is claimed to be to bring manufacturing of components in house for Manroy, and to reduce costs. It is also a move toward expanding its product range into ‘general purpose’ machine guns.

Manroy has begun a programme of expansion in recent years. Manroy  recently attempted to sell arms to Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi. At least one Manroy principal defended the attempt to sell weapons to the late Libyan dictator, claiming that Libya was at the time a favoured regime with the UK government.

Manroy is engaging ‘revenue professionals‘ to promote its business in North and South America, Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Far East, however their Annual Report for 2012 does not specify who these ‘revenue professionals’ might be.




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Manroy expects to sell more arms

Manroy Engineering is claiming to have a record number of orders ‘in the pipeline’ or under negotiation in December.

The East Sussex based maker of machine guns and other weapons saw its projected business fall when the UK government cut back the number of autocratic regimes it was willing to green light for export permits, following the ‘Arab Spring’ . The government was embarrassed when it was learned that UK arms companies like General Dynamics and Manroy Engineering were negotiating with the Gaddafi regime prior to the Libyan revolution, with the encouragement of the UK government. Government officials promoting arms sales to the Libyan dictator included diplomatic staff, and top military brass.

50 British arms manufacturers had attended the Libdex arms fair, held at the Tripoli airport in late 2010. While fair was promoted as a ‘safety and security’ trade fair, a large part of the exhibition was for weaponry.

Recently the government has shown signs of relaxing its prohibition on sales of weapons to certain authoritarian regimes, which bodes well for the arms companies.

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Machine gun manufacturer Manroy declared losses

UK manufacturer of machine guns Manroy Engineering suffered financial losses last year, and stock prices have declined by more than 30% since last August. Manroy blamed startup and relocation costs of its US arm for part of the loss.

Beckley, East Sussex based Manroy started an ambitious plan to expand the range of countries it sold its machine guns to, but may have been thwarted when the UK suddenly reduced the number of countries it was willing to grant export licenses for.

It was also reported that Manroy was in the midst of negotiations with officials of Libyan dictator Mohamar Gadaffi, when the UK suddenly launched a war against Gadaffi. Up to then the UK government had been actively promoting arms sales to Libya. Afraid to be accused of gross hypocrisy, Britain`s government quickly cancelled export permission for several authoritarian countries, including Libya.

Manroy also blamed past losses and failure to meet expectations on a major export order from an existing customer, that has yet to be confirmed. Nor has the ‘existing customer’ been identified.

Manroy’s key product is the .50 calibre heavy machine gun, which it has provided to the UK MOD for many years. Manroy’s advertising is very heavy with technology and steel, but very short on photos of the blood, gore, and carnage created by use of these weapons. (I searched online for photos of .50 calibre bullet wounds, but the results were so alarming I decided not to link to them. Use your imagination, if you have the stomach).

To help stop the proliferation of small arms consider supporting Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

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Elbit scores on Israeli missile hysteria

The recent Libyan revolution has had unexpected benefits for Elbit Systems, the giant Israeli arms company, while making the Israeli repression of Gaza more difficult.

Gangs of smugglers apparently looted Libyan government arms stores during the upheaval and made off with quantities of surface to air missiles sold by Russia to the Qaddafi regime. These might include SA-18 or SA-24 Grinch missiles, made in Russia. These apparently were sold to Libya outside the international arms control system (unsurprisingly).

According to Israeli sources some of these have made their way to Hamas, sparking a wave of hysteria in Israel.

The upshot of this perceived threat is that Elbit Systems has sold many units of its ‘C-Music’ system for protecting large aircraft from small surface to air missile systems known as ‘man pads’. C-Music uses a laser to ‘defeat’ the incoming missile. Military planes already have similar systems. C-Music is a version for commercial airliners, which is similar to one Elbit supplies for military aircraft.

After selling as many as 100 units for Israeli airliners, Elbit Systems is offering its system to the international market. At a cost of $1 million to $1.5 million per plane, that’s $100-150 million in sales for Elbit, not counting possible international sales. (Elbit states that its contract with the Israeli government for fitting commercial airliners with the system is for $76 million).

Despite the hysteria in Israel, there hasn’t been an instance of one of these missiles being used since 2002, when al Qaeda fired at an Israeli airliner and missed. Despite Israeli claims there isn’t evidence that Hamas or other factions would use the missiles against civilian airliners. Security officials point out that missiles of this sort are widely available from sources other than the chaotic Libyan aftermath.

The hysteria generated promises to deliver Elbit a ready market however, demonstrating how the excesses of the arms trade (eg Russia selling missiles to Qaddafi) leads to profits and proliferation of weaponry in an adjacent part of the world.

The flap has benefits for the Netanyahu government as well, which returns attention to the security needs of Israel rather than its ongoing repression and colonisation in Palestine.

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French Use Israeli Drone in Libya

The French military has been using Israeli `Harfang` drones in its operations in Libya.

The Harfang is based on Israeli Aircraft Industry`s Heron drones, and is produced by EADS and BAE. It is said to be an `interim` drone programme, and is used in Afghanistan by French forces. The French have recently announced the purchase of the Heron TP (The `Eitan`), a much larger version of the Heron on which Harfang is based. The Eitan will be introduced about 2014.

The Harfang drones were flown from Sicily to Libya and have 25 operators. Control of the drones is based in Sicily. It isnt clear how many drones are involved, but there is no evidence that any have been produced beyond the original four or so created a few years ago.


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Peace Activists in Hastings Mock Local Arms Company

Peace activists in Hastings satirised the ‘blood washing’ activities of a local arms company with some street theatre. Hastings is on England’s south coast.

The arms company they mocked was General Dynamics UK, a branch of the giant General Dynamics arms company, which has a three facilities in Hastings. General Dynamics is one of the largest arms companies in the world. (See overview here). General Dynamics UK was recently embarassed in the public sphere by its sales of military communications equipment to the Qaddafi regime immediately prior to the UK intervention in Libya. (The UK intervened to protect Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by the military of that very regime).  The Independent newspaper documented the involvement of General Dynamics, and its government enablers, with the Libyan regime in this article.

The activists held a mock ‘triathalon’ complete with costumes and athletic contests and moved between the three Hastings facilities occupied by General Dynamics. The protest drew attention to General Dynamic’s community involvement programme, which includes sponsoring the Hastings Half Marathon. General Dynamics has a variety of community involvements in Hastings also including supporting the Half Marathon and the local bonfire society. (Editor-this is really a ‘bloodwashing’ activity. See earlier discussions of this practise elsewhere in the blog).

General Dynamics community programmes serve to divert attention away from the real nature of  General Dynamics products, which is to conduct warfare. And warfare on a grand scale, since one of General Dynamic’s products is the Trident submarine, each one capable of razing many cities.

In a demonstration earlier in the month, Hastings activists picketed the Castleham Road facility of General Dynamics as part of the national protests against the arms trade. The Hastings Observer quoted a company official as claiming ‘we are not in the arms trade’ (although it is hard to imagine that military communications equipment can not be described as ‘arms’).

(photos to follow)

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Machine Gun Maker Manroy Sales Down Due to Arab Spring

Various sources are reporting that Manroy Engineering sales are down due to events relating to the Arab Spring. Manroy is believed to have been trying to sell arms to the Qaddafi regime in Libya, and these were curtailed by the British supported revolution there.

MINAFN.COM reports that Manroy relies on the UK MOD bringing clients to its weapons site in East Sussex for demonstrations. Apparently budgetary considerations and the Arab Spring have curtailed this activity, and consequently Manroy sales have been suffering. Manroy sales could be as much as 15% lower this year.

It isn’t certain what weapons site the MOD invites prospective machine gun and weapons clients to, but perhaps this is actually the  MOD firing range at Lydd, Kent. Perhaps the reason Manroy relocated to nearby Beckley is the proximity of the range. UK MOD appears to be a very active promoter of weapons sales by Manley if these reports are accurate.

If Manroy had planned to sell weapons to certain countries, and these sales fell through due to British policy changes following from the Arab Spring, can it be presumed that some of these potential sales were to countries whose authoritarian governments fell to democratic movements?

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East Sussex Machine Gun Maker Profits Up

Manroy Plc, the UK’s largest maker of heavy machine guns, has increased profits substantially over last year. Share prices are up. Manroy has gone from having a loss of £33,000 in the six month ending March 2010, to a profit of £1.14 million in the same period this year.

Manroy does not publicise the destination of its sales but is known to sell machine guns to the regime in Saudi Arabia. It is the largest supplier of machine guns to the UK, and is believed to have a close association to the UK Ministry of Defence.

CEO Glyn Bottomley claims that Manroy ‘does not accept orders from any embargoed country’, and only sells to countries on the UK’s list of acceptable recipients. (What he does not mention however is that until recently the Ghadaffi regime  in Libya was on the UK’s list of priority customers. Bottomley has previously stated that Manroy has not sold machine guns to Libya. Is it possible that the shifting relationship between the UK and Libya has deprived Manroy of a market that it intended to enter?)

Manroy claims that certain events, (probably meaning the ‘Arab spring’ ) have delayed orders, but that these orders will likely be placed in 2012. Manroy also claims that it is well placed to expand its sales to the US military.

In its notes to the consolidated financial statement, Manroy PLC list the UK as the source of 82% of its sales in the last six months, (ending March 31, 2011) 16% to European customers, and 2% to North American customers.

Manroy claims to sell machine guns to several different countries. Other than the UK, US, and Saudi Arabia, it is not clear who are the other recipients of the Manroy exports. Because Manroy does not generally disclose its actual or intended customers, it isn’t clear who are the actual recipients of Manroy machine guns. But we can presume that the possible recipients will be any country not embargoed by the UK.

A 2006 article in the Guardian lists some of the countries on the UK priority list for arms exports, including Iraq, Libya, Colombia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan. reports that the UK has okayed arms sale to 15 Middle East and North African regimes since January 2009, including sales to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Algeria, and Syria. UK suppliers sold the Ghadaffi regime of Libya £100 million worth of arms since January, 2009. While a number of these countries are now embargoed, it is likely that several others will be on the potential list of customers for expanded Manroy arms sales in the future.

Manroy recently received a £4.1 million contract to supply UK MOD with blank ammunition.

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