Russian missile system spirited out of Libya by US

A truck-mounted Russian air defence missile system captured on a Libyan battlefield was flown intact to a US air base in Germany in a covert mission, The Times has learnt.

The operation was ordered amid concerns that the Pantsir S-1 missile battery, which can easily bring down civilian aircraft, could fall into the hands of militias or arms smugglers in the war-torn north African country.

The operation involved sending a team on a US air force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane to Zuwara airport, west of Tripoli, last June to load the battery and transport it back to the Ramstein base in southwestern Germany.

It had been purchased from Russia by the United Arab Emirates, which had sent it to Libya to support forces loyal to