In March 1986, U.S. Navy aviators out-flew, out-maneuvered and jammed the Libyan Arab Air Force so badly that the Libyans stopped flying their interceptors over the Gulf of Sidra.

As a result, Tripoli had to give up its claim on this part of the Mediterranean. Equally damaging, the lack of air cover allowed the Americans to attack with relative impunity.

You could chalk up the Americans’ success to superior training and tactics. But don’t dismiss another potentially important factor — espionage. By the mid-1980s, the U.S. military had obtained reams of vital intelligence on Soviet-made weaponry, particularly aircraft and related systems, from Adolf Georgievich Tolkachev, a disgruntled Soviet engineer.

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Image courtesy of NATO