After 30 Years, Libya Can't Get Its Planes, Might Get Repair Bill
Friday, August 18, 2006
Libya may be Lockheed Martin Corp.'s most frustrated customer. The Bethesda weapons maker has sold more than 2,000 of its C-130 cargo jets during the last 50 years, nearly half to foreign countries. But about 30 years ago, a routine sale to Libya went awry.
After Libya paid $42 million for eight of the hulking cargo jets, the country's relationship with the United States crumbled and the transfer of the planes was blocked. Lockheed, which had already been paid, took the planes -- painted a two-toned brown at Libya's request -- and parked them in the Georgia heat on the outskirts of its production plant there.
A recent thaw in the countries' relations might set the planes free. In May, President Bush normalized relations with the North African country and waived a provision of the Arms Control Act to allow Libya to receive an assessment of how much it would cost to repair any damage sustained from sitting unused for such a long time.
"The company is authorized to share with the Libyans the damage assessment," said a senior State Department official, who declined to be identified. Libya has said it wants the planes, but the U.S. government still isn't ready for that, the official said.
What government officials will consider is a compromise. Lockheed may be allowed to sell the planes to another customer and give Libya the proceeds of the sale. Those would be the net proceeds, after the cost of repairs, the State department official said. "The repairs won't be done for free and there might well be storage costs," the official said.
Lockheed declined to comment, and no Libyan official could be reached for that comment. Libya does not have a functioning embassy in the United States.