Sole rebel jet is lost in sky over Benghazi
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
PLUMMETING to earth in flames, this is the dramatic moment when a rebel Libyan fighter jet was apparently brought down over Benghazi.
The jet crashed to the ground yesterday.
Just seconds after an initial explosion, the pilot was seen ejecting from the stricken aircraft, which crashed on the western outskirts of the city.
Rebels said the plane was one under their control and accused Gaddafi's forces of bringing it down.
"From what I hear, the pilot is dead but I cannot confirm that," an official said.
The plane is believed to have been a MiG fighter whose pilot had defected with his aircraft to join the rebels.
Libya had been a large-scale buyer of the Soviet jets and though many are unserviceable, several have been used in the conflict. Libya's air force has two types of MiG -- the MiG-23 and the MiG-21.
Though it was unclear what brought the aircraft down, anti-aircraft gunfire was heard moments before it spiralled out of control and burst into flames.
It is possible it could have been hit by a surface-to-air missile (Sam), such as the Soviet-made SA5 Gammon, which can shoot down a plane at a range of up to 90 miles -- but no vapour trails were seen in the sky prior to the attack.
Although now a relic by modern standards, the SA5 can still fly at four times the speed of sound, out-pacing every Nato combat jet.
It uses radar to search out targets and can destroy aircraft by hitting or exploding in close proximity to the target, peppering it with thousands of steel pellets.
Colonel Gaddafi is thought to have at least nine batteries of SA5 missiles.