The Times has reported that a truck-mounted Russian air defense missile system captured on a Libyan battlefield was flown intact to a US air base in Germany in a covert mission.
According to the report, 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 Libya.
The operation, the report added, involved sending a team on a US air force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane to Zuwara airport, west of Tripoli, in June 2020 to load the battery and transport it back to the Ramstein base in southwestern Germany.
The report indicated that Pantsir-S1 had been purchased from Russia by the United Arab Emirates, which had sent it to Libya to support forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in their war on Tripoli from April 2019 to May 2020.
It added that mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group are believed to have operated some of the air defense systems for Haftar’s forces.
"The Pantsir was captured after an airbase was overrun in a counter-attack by the Government of National Accord’s force.” The Times added.
Meanwhile, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in December 2019 that it believed Russian air defenses had downed a US drone near Tripoli, adding that those who operated the missile system didn't know it was an American drone.