Libya M109

In August 2012 photographs emerged online showing US made M109 SPGs (Self Propelled Gun) in Libya.

Although absent in the majority of references regarding M109 operators a couple of sources have claimed a small number  (12-18) of M109s were delivered to Libya.  The pictures confirm those claims, representing the first pictorial evidence of Libyan M109s in the public domain, as far as the author is aware.

  Source: SSC Tripoli

The three photographs used in this article are all taken from the Facebook profile of the SSC (Supreme Security Committee) Tripoli [1].  They are reportedly taken around Tarhuna near Tripoli and related to the capture of a large number of artillery of various types from pro-Gaddafi militia [2].

The photographs show two M109 examples both representing the initial M109 base variant, identifiable by the original shorter 22-calibre barrel.  This variant first entered US service in 1963.   Later M109A1-A6 and international versions featured longer barrels along with a host of other improvements.

The same M109, photographed from a slightly elevated angle. Note the Italian made Palmaria SPG immediately behind.  Source: SSC Tripoli

No further details regarding M109s in Libyan Service, including any potential use in the 2011 Civil War, are currently available.  The serviceability of these two examples it also unclear with no indication that these vehicles have been moved whilst under the control of the militia.  The condition of any other surviving M109s in Libya also remain unknown.  Despite their apparent age and probable scarcity of spares during the Gaddafi era the operational readiness of these vehicles prior to the Civil War should not be discounted, given evidence of other Libyan equipment performing under similar circumstances [3].

The logic of retaining and maintaining this relatively outdated type in such apparently small numbers is questionable, particularly given that Libya's procurement of more modern SPGs in significant numbers [4].

Three Palmaria (foreground) and a second M109 (background).  Source: SSC Tripoli

Close up of the second M109.   The different position of the commander’s cupola and closed hatch along with the different shadows suggest this is a different M109 as the photographs are believed to have been taken on the same occasion.  Original Source: SSC Tripoli, edited by the Author.


The M109 has been widely exported since it’s introduction almost half a century ago.  However only those early export customers are believed to have received this initial base variant with the majority of those later upgrading their examples to M109A1 standard or above.  This suggests that the availability of this version for export from a third party was soon limited.

It is therefore the inference of the author that the USA was the direct supplier, exporting them to Libya between 1963-68.  This is based upon the low probability of a third party supplier and known [5] and suspected [6] export of arms by the USA to Libya prior to the Gaddafi era. 


[1] SSC Tripoli http://www.facebook.com/SSCTRIPOLI (accessed 07/09/2012)
[4] 130 x 2S1 GVOZDIKA 122mm (1980-82), 168 x 2S3 Akatsiya 152mm  (1980-82), 20-80 x DANA 152mm (1983-84)& 210 x Palmaria 155mm (1982-1985). SIPRI Arms Transfer Database http://www.sipri.org (accessed 07/09/2011)
[5] SIPRI Arms Transfer Database http://www.sipri.org (accessed 07/09/2011)


  1. Couldn't be Italy?

  2. Thank you for your comment. Although Italy supplied a considerable amount of arms to Libya 1975-80 it seem unlikely, thought not impossible, they are the supplier of these M109s. Whilst Italy did purchase 221 of this initial M109 base variant they produced the gun locally basing it on the modified German design fitted to the M109G. If based on the M109G it would likely have had a concave muzzle end and not the convex muzzle end as evident in the Libyan examples. In addition all those 221 units were reportedly upgraded from 1986 onwards to M109L standard featuring a new 155mm howitzer with a longer barrel.

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