When I heard the news story about the two Libyan fighter pilots who had defected to Malta, the first thing that I thought was...'hmm I wonder what type of aircraft they were flying'. I think it has to be because I spend 5 days a week surrounded by books on military hardware that I am so obsessed with what military tech is deployed around the world - and spend most military-based news stories spotting recognisable weaponry. So when I should have been thinking about the bravery of these two pilots and worrying about the implications this might have for their family back in Libya - I was trying to find out what the main strike aircraft was in the Libyan airforce.
My money was on some sort of MiG variant - either the solid Russian built version, or the slightly less auspicious Chinese attempt (which i think is called the Chengdu?). Turns out I was wrong - helpful news agencies (probably flooded by questions from aviation enthusiasts like myself) soon announced that the aircraft were Mirages.
Which then got me back to thinking - who gets to keep those aircraft? What is the protocol for aircraft used when defecting? Are the Maltese expected to give them back - or at least let the Libyans come and collect them? Or do the Maltese get to keep them and integrate them into their own airforce? A quick gander at the font of all knowledge (aka Wikipedia) revealed that the Maltese airforce did have three Alouettes in their service - which someone had helpfully labelled as ex-Libyan airforce.
Does that mean the Maltese have previous experience of intergrating Libyan hardware into their own armed services? And do the Maltese actually need two jet fighters? Either way, I can't help but hope that the Libyans lose more of their hardware to Malta over the next few days - although it is probably a little more complicated defecting to Malta in a T-72.
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