March 21, 2012: The new government in Libya is proceeding with a deal to refurbish its French built Mirage F1 fighters. This was a project set in motion by the recently overthrown dictatorship. The government is carefully scrutinizing arms deals made by the deposed (and deceased) dictator Moamar Kaddafi, who was known to buy weapons without regard to need or practicality. Russia was a major supplier but because Russia resisted NATO assistance to the rebels who overthrew Kaddafi, many existing Russian deals are in doubt. France, on the other hand, was a major supplier of air support for the rebels. Moreover, many Libyan air force pilots refused to use their aircraft to attack the rebels, sometimes flying them to other countries to avoid the possibility of another pilot doing the deed. Thus the Libyan Air Force is held in high regard and seen as worthy of rebuilding.
The Mirage F1 refurbishment was part of a five year old deal to sell Libya over two billion dollars-worth of Airbus airliners. France had agreed to refurbish a dozen of Libya's 38 Mirage F1 fighters. Libya bought the Mirage's nearly thirty years ago and has not gotten a lot of technical support since then. This was because Libya began supporting terrorists decades ago and got slapped with arms embargos by most European nations.
Libya bought large quantities of weapons, most from Europe and Russia, in the 1970s. More weapons than Libya was able to use, much less maintain. The Mirage F1 is a 16 ton interceptor that can only carry two tons of weapons. With modern electronics and missiles, it would still be a formidable air defense aircraft. This is apparently what Libya is getting, although France would prefer to sell them the new Rafale fighter. But Rafale is expensive, about $66 million each, while a refurb of a Mirage F1 would cost less than a third of that.