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Lebanese Air Force - Modernization

The Air force commander decided and the Army command approved his decision, to celebrate the Annual day of the Air force on the 20th of June 1957. As in 1955, all preparations were made and appropriate measures were taken. The pilots had become more experienced and three new Aircraft Squadrons "Vampire, Hawker Hunter and Fouga magister" were added to the Air force. Results came splendid as usual. The president was there as well as the prime minister, the ministers, members of the parliament, officers, officials, military attaches, directors, and the public.

King of Iraq Faysal the second wanted to donate to Lebanon six advanced trainer Aircraft Type "Harvard". When the president of the Republic accepted the fight, the Lebanese Air commander Headed towards Baghdad on 16 May 1957 to finalize the matter with the Iraqi Authorities, LT General Aref; the Army commander and General Kazim Abadi; the Air Force Commander. The donated Aircraft were then inspected and found to be in excellent condition and Totally renewed to zero how flight. Colonel Boustany invited General Abadi to visit Lebanon, which he did on 30 May 1957.

On 22 August 1957, the Iraqi military Attaches colonel Saleh El Sahraii to the Army Head quarters and informed the Army commander that the donated Aircraft become readily equipped for take-off towords Lebanon. On 9 September 1957, he left to Baghdad with his officer's pilots. He was received there by General Kazem Abadi and other Iraqi Senior officers, in the presence of the Lebanese Ambassador Mr Kazem El Salh and members of the Lebanese community in Baghdad.

On 10 September 1957, a meeting was held with General Daghistani the Deputy in chief of the Iraqi Army and General Chaker the chief of staff who delivered to the Lebanese Air force commander colonel Boustany the Royal donation decree them made an inspection tour with them to examine the Aircraft. On 14 September 1957, reception of the Aircraft was concluded. The first batch with Lebanese pilots took-off to words Lebanon on that same day, the next batch follower a day after. On 16 September 1957, the air force commander presented him self to the army commander and reported completion of the mission. On 18 September 1957, the Army commander went to visit the Air base in Khalde to view the Aircraft.

By 1958 the pro-West Government of Lebanon continued to feel insecure in its position and to look to the United States for economic and military aid. The Lebanese were particularly urging that the US furnish the Lebanese Air Force with modern jet fighters to replace the obsolete planes with which they were presently equipped. The Lebanese believed that their possession of jet fighters would act as an important deterrent to the Syrians. They also stressed the psychological effect which the provision of such fighters would have on Lebanese public opinion.

Considerations arising from the Arab-Israel dispute and past US refusal to supply United States jet aircraft to Israel would make it preferable for the US to avoid placing United States aircraft in either Lebanon or Jordan. Aircraft from a friendly Western power would seem to be preferable and Britain is apparently willing to assume the political risks involved.

The British had expressed an interest in Lebanon’s air strength and are maintaining a small air training mission in Lebanon. While British fighter aircraft might be made available to Lebanon, the United Kingdom was not in a position to offer them on a grant basis nor even to pay a portion of the cost of these planes on the understanding that the United States would assume the balance.

In January 1959, the Air force received a Squadron of "Hawker Hunter" jet fighters and four French "Alouette II" Helicopters. After the Air force started to grow in personnel and equipment, their had to be a need to develop its establishments and facilities to cape with its set objectives. So after establishing the Aviation school in 1960in Rayak Air base to qualify pilots and the Technical school to qualify Technicians, five advanced training Aircraft type "Fouga Magister" was procured from France. In the same year, new facilities were added to Beirut Air base to accommodate the Alouette II and Alouette III Helicopter squadrons, which were basically stationed in Rayak. These were named the third squadrons" then the Lebanese Army Received Kleiat Airport and started immediately re-mewing and expending its facilities and size. Kleiat Air port is located at the Northern coast of Lebanon, six kilometers far from the Lebanese - Syrian Boarders. It was first owned by the "IPC" petroleum company and used by small size transport Aero planes between Lebanon and the Arab countries.

Kleiat airport was transferred into a military airbase and was considered at that time one of the most advanced air bases in the region. A new contract was concluded between Lebanon and France for the purchase from France of Mirage aircraft and training of Lebanese pilots and personnel. At the beginning of 1968, the Lebanese team ended its courses in France and was stationed with other personnel from the mother air base in Kleiat air base pending arrival of the "Mirage". The first two Mirage aircraft landed in Kleiat air base in April of the same year, flown by two Lebanese pilots. The other aircraft followed in non-stop air flights from France to Kleiat and delivery was completed in June 1969.The "Mirage" performed outstanding air activities and executed numerous missions. Their rate of flight readiness was very high due to the elevated capacities of its pilots and technical team.

In year 1970, a delegation from the French manufacturing company of Mirage aircraft. "Dassault" arrived in Kleiat air base to find out about the aircraft and were bewildered by their technical condition. Other delegation followed and were all impressed as well. In between 1980 & 1981, the two eighth and ninth squadrons comprising French "Gazelle" and "Puma" helicopters were established in Beirut air base. In year 1989, late president of the republic René Mouawad was elected in kleiat air base. After his tragic death, the air base was renamed to "Martyr president René Mouawad" pursuant to a cabinet resolution. It was considered fit for civil aviation and many domestic flights between Beirut and Kleiat were executed from and to this airport due to the local disturbances at that time and went on until 1991.

By 1987 the airforce was composed of one helicopter attack squadron equipped with four French-made SA-342 Gazelle helicopters armed with SS-11 and SS 12 air-to-surface missiles, twenty-eight AB-212 transports, and SA-315 and SA-316 Alouette transport helicopters. These helicopters were capable of airlifting 300 men. In 1983 the air force had planned to increase its helicopter fleet to forty aircraft, and the Lebanese government signed an agreement with France to purchase about US$80 million worth of unspecified air force equipment. These plans were shelved after the French MNF contingent withdraw in 1984, however.

The exact number of operational fixed-wing and jet aircraft in the air force inventory was not available in the late 1980s. The air force apparently lost three of its ten semiobsolete British-made Hawker-Hunter F-70 fighter jets in the 1983-84 Mountain War, and only three of those remaining were reported to be serviceable. The air force was reported to have ten French-made Mirage fighter-bombers, of which only three were in commission. It also had eleven trainers--five Fouga Magisters and six propeller-driven Bulldogs.

The military parade held in Beirut in December 1992 to mark the anniversary of Lebanon's independence included Hawker Hunter fighter planes, which flew overhead, thus appearing publicly for the first time in a long while and confirming that the Lebanese Air Force is still capable of operating these aircraft, which currently constituted the mainstay of its combat force. Meanwhile, French-made Mirage-3 fighters were being kept in storage while waiting to be rehabilitated.

By 1993, Lebanon acquired in the two years since the al-Ta'if accord was concluded and the legitimate forces reunified, considerable military aid. Regarding the Air Force, Lebanon acquired in that period six British-made Hawker Hunter fighter planes, Gazelle assault helicopters, and Puma troop transport helicopters from France. Resources were needed to rehabilitate the Mirage-3 and Hawker Hunter fighter planes and to complete maintenance and preparation of the the fleet of Gazelle and Puma helicopters.

In the year 1995, the tenth and eleventh squadrons were formed with 16 U H-1 Bell helicopters from the USA the helicopter were sent to Jordan by air freight then flown to Lebanon by Lebanese air force pilots. Intensive courses paratroopers and intervention Special Forces were concluded in 1998. Agro spraying and trashing of thieves and dope merchants were executed in different regions in Bekaa by these helicopters. In the year 2000, the helicopters of type Bell 205 were received at Beirut sea port, which were to be followed by five other Helicopters of the same type in year 2001.

Lebanon received much of its modern equipment at a discount from the United States and continued to purchase new systems from the US as well. The Air Force was equipped with Bell UH-1 Iroquois combat helicopters, developed back in the 1950s, and Robinson R44 Raven II civilian helicopters, all of which were supplied by the United States. France also represents a large portion of Lebanon's imports.

In 2007, Beirut took delivery of nine SA342L Gazelle helicopters from the United Arab Emirates. In September 2010 the Lebanese Air Force took delivery of additional 3 IAR-330 Puma transport helicopters from the UAE, bringing up the total in the inventory to 7 out of the promised 10.

As of late 2007 the LAF was still looking for fighter jets — possibly Jordanian or Saudi F-5E/Fs — to replace five old Hawker Hunters that had been grounded for years by a lack of spare parts. There are a number of old but fairly good jet fighters available in the market that the LAF could get either for free or very low prices, but the problem is that the best offers were American-built, which means Washington would need to give its approval for the transfer to Lebanon, and that was a problem. Giving Lebanon fighters and other offensive weapons would require a policy review, as the was concerned that these weapons could fall into the hands of Hizballah, which was considered stronger than the Lebanese army.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said on 16 December 2008 after a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov that Russia will supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters. Serdyukov said Moscow had received a weapons procurement list from the Lebanese armed forces which would be considered in the near future. He added that the fighter deliveries would provide a fresh impetus to military cooperation between the two countries. A member of the Lebanese delegation said the aircraft would be provided "as aid." According to inside sources privy to the deal, the warplanes "will be sold at a hefty discount."

Russia will supply Lebanon with 10 used MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter planes free of charge, the head of the federal military cooperation service said on 17 December 2008. The usual export price for a new MiG-29 is around $30 million. Mikhail Dmitriyev said that before being shipped to Lebanon, all aircraft would be repaired and modernized "to export standards." He also said Russia and Lebanon were holding talks on a deal for the Arab country to buy Russian military hardware. "Joint work with our Lebanese colleagues is underway now, dealing with the purchase of Russian armored vehicles, artillery and other military hardware, as well as other types of armaments," Dmitriyev said. He also said that Lebanese military servicemen would be trained in Russia.

President Michel Sleiman said everyone should, "wait and see," regarding a Russian offer to supply the GOL with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets. The government needed time to look at the details of the offer. Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commanding General Jean Kahwagi said the LAF would need to complete an assessment to gauge the LAF's ability could sustain such equipment. Lebanon had no codified political or military commitments with Russia over the MiG-29s, and the Council of Ministers would have to sign off on any foreign government donations. The 10 MIG-29 aircraft are so expensive to operate that the Lebanese would likely only be able to fly them a few hours per year -- "enough for a parade."

The U.S. was committed to strengthening the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and would base assistance on the needs and items identified by the LAF in its masterplan. The U.S. did not view the Russian deal as a form of competition, but did have concerns about the ability of the LAF to meet the maintenance and sustainability requirements of such an acquisition. While the U.S. had developed a list of items needed by the LAF to support Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, fighter jets had never been on this list.

Lebanon finally put an end to the MiG-29 story when it announced in early 2010 that the gift could not be accepted due to cost issues. On 27 February 2010 it was reported that Russia had accepted a formal request by Lebanon to substitute the donation of 10 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters with an unspecified number of Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. But as recently as 11 January 2013 some media reports suggested that President Michel Suleiman may discuss the MiG-29 related issues with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin during his upcoming official visit to the Russian Federation on 22 January 2013. However, these reports appear to be mere speculations by the media, and no such discussions were reported after the face.

After the the 105-day armed conflict [May-September 2007] in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp the need for combat aircraft was recognized. The decade long retired Hawker Hunter jets were put into maintenance to serve as an immediate solution, with 4 Hawker Hunters were made airworthy by late 2008, the Bulldogs were overhauled and the possibility of re-introduction of the Fouga Magisters were considered.

UAE committed to delivering ten Hawk fixed wing aircraft (out of the 30 it plans to retire). By 2009 eight Hawk pilots had received training in the UAE, four of whom are instructor pilots. Lebanon planned to use these aircraft as he would use helicopters (for close air support), as they are equipped with 20mm canons, air-to-ground missiles, and will work well in fighting terrorists, particularly in the Palestinian camps. This may mean the retirementof the long serving Hawker Hunter force which had been the backbone of the fixed wing jet force for five decades.

In 2009 it was proposed to buy two more Cessna Caravans to complement the one already in inventory and the one soon to arrive. The Caravan is a strong CAS platform but there is the high cost to outfit the aircraft from its basic configuration. With an initial cost of $1.8-$2.2 million each, the Caravan's fully weaponized cost could reach $22 million, they noted. Lebanon also seemed interested in the 11-12 OV-10s that might be available on a short-deployment timeline. Alliant Techsystems (ATK) would deliver a second AC-208B Combat Caravan to the Lebanese Air Force in 2013, under a contract worth nearly $14.7 million awarded on January 12, 2012.

In July 2010 it was reported that the Lebanese Air Force was interested in acquiring 3 Aermacchi MB-339 jets to fill an immediate gap of trainer aircraft. But by mid-2013 nothing seemed to have come of this plan.

The Lebanese wish list included defense helicopters and transport helicopters. United Arab Emirates' donation of light attack Gazelle helicopters that had precision missiles in early 2007 arrived during the Nahr Al Bared conflict and were immediately presaged into service in close combat operations. Only helicopters can change the mood of the war. Without helicopters the LAF could not assert itself effectively over Hizballah. Attack helicopters would be perceived as a more powerful and visible sign of U.S. support than tanks or military training. Close-air support attack helicopters are highest on the LAF's list because an air force gives the LAF an advantage over the militias and terrorists, who can destroy tanks with RPGs The LAF could not have defeated Fatah al-Islam during the fighting at Nahr al-Barid without helicopters. The LAF favored Cobra helicopters [possibly as many as a dozen], as the LAF engineers would require minimal training to be able to maintain them. Other countries have experienced difficulty maintaining the Cobras. By 2009 the Cobra attack helicopter was not in consideration due to a lack of parts in the supply chain.

In June 2010 Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias el-Murr anounced a date had been set for the training of Lebanese helicopter pilots in Russia. He said that Russia had promised to supply a number of Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters, with deliveries to begin in 2010. Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced 15 November 2010 that Russia would supply Lebanon with six Mi-24 gunship helicopters as part of a package that included tanks and artillery. The Prime Minister's statement came during his official visit to Moscow. Lebanon and Russia signed a number of cooperation agreements during Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to Moscow. Beirut-based An-Nahar daily reported Lebanon hoped to sign an agreement on the free delivery of 10 Russian military helicopters. As of mid-2013 nothing seemed to have come of this.

On 20 July 2012 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Lebanon for six Huey II helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $63 million. The Government of Lebanon requested a possible sale of 6 Huey II helicopters, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, repair and return, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $63 million. The Lebanese Air Force took delivery of 6 UH-1H Huey II helicopters from the US on 12 December 2012.

The US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Lebanon for A-29 Super Tucano Aircraft and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $462 million. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the US Congress of this possible sale on 05 June, 2015.

The Government of Lebanon requested a possible sale of six (6) A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, eight (8) PT6A-68A Turboprop engines (6 installed and 2 spares), eight (8) ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensing Systems, two thousand (2000) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems, eight (8) AN/AAR-60(V)2 Missile Launch Detection Systems, non-SAASM Embedded Global Positioning System/Initial Navigation System (EGIs), spare and repair parts, flight testing, maintenance support, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by providing Lebanon with airborne capabilities needed to maintain internal security, enforce United Nation’s Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and counter terrorist threats. The proposed sale of these aircraft will provide Lebanon with a much needed Close Air Support (CAS) platform to meet present and future challenges posed by internal and border security threats. Lebanon should have no difficulty absorbing these additional aircraft into its armed forces.

On 31 March 2016 the United States delivered three military helicopters to Lebanon to help the country's armed forces in their battle against extremists near the border with Syria. The delivery of three Huey II helicopters raised to 10 the number of such US-made aircraft in Lebanon's fleet.

A ceremony was held 31 October 2017 at the Lebanese Air Force (LAF) Hamat base where the Lebanese Air Force received from the United States two A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. The ceremony was attended by Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and the U.S. Air force Central Commander General Jeffrey Harrigian. Richard expressed in a speech her country's commitment to continue supporting Lebanon's armed forces to enable it protecting the sovereignty and integrity of its territories. "The two A-29 Super Tucanos are the first of six that will be delivered over the next several months. The A-29's advanced technology provides the LAF with precision guided munitions and advanced precision strike capability," she said.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:21:41 ZULU