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The Lebanese Air Force (LAF) ( Al Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Lubnania) is the aerial warfare branch of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The seal of the air force is constituted of a Roundel with two wings and a Lebanese Cedar tree, surrounded by two laurel leaves on a blue background.

History

The Lebanese Air Force was established in 1949 under the command of then Lieutenant Colonel Emile Boustany who later became commander of the army. Soon after its establishment a number of planes were donated by the Britishmarker, Frenchmarker, and Italianmarker governments, while an additional number of planes were donated by Britain and Italy the same year. Britain donated 4 Percival Prentices and 2 World War II period Percival Proctors while Italy donated 4 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers which were mainly used for transportation. In 1953, jet fighters were introduced when a number of de Havilland Vampire jets were received. The first Hawker Hunters arrived in 1959 and were followed by additional fighters through 1977. In 1968, 12 Mirage IIIELs were delivered from France but were grounded in the late 1970s due to lack of funds. In 2000, the grounded Mirages were sold to Pakistanmarker.

The air force, in the absence of advanced fixed wing aircraft, currently relies on a helicopter force and Hawker Hunter jets that were been put back in service late 2008. The Lebanese Air Force consists of six squadrons distributed on three air bases.

Combat history

Savoia Marchetti SM.79.
The Lebanese Air Force has a long history operating Hawker Hunter jets since 1958. A Lebanese Hawker Hunter shot down an Israeli jet over Kfirmishki in early sixties, its pilot was captured by the LAF. One Lebanese Hawker Hunter was shot down on the first day of the Six-Day War by the Israeli Air Force. The Hawker Hunters have not flown any combat sorties since September 17, 1983. This was during the period where the French and Americans were rebuilding the Lebanese army, and three F.Mk.70s were made airworthy, and started combat operations on September 15. Because the main airfield, Rayak Air Base had been shelled by Syrian forces, the Hunters had to operate from an airfield in Byblosmarker. The Hunters were finally grounded in 1994 after a minor accident with one of the T.66 trainers during landing and the remaining 8 were stored in the Rayaq Air Base. The last loss took place in 1989 near Batrounmarker during a routine training, when undercarriage wheels was not able to lower, later the jet crash. But not before the pilot was able to eject safely from the doomed jet and land in the sea, where he was promptly rescued by the Syrian army, which then handed him over to Suleiman Frangieh, who in turn handed him over to the Lebanese Army at the al-Madfoun crossing.

During Operation Nahr el-Bared camp in North Lebanon, due to the fact of possessing no airworthy fixed-wing strike aircraft, the Lebanese army modified some UH-1H helicopters to permit the carrying of 500 pound Mark 82 bomb and 1000 pound Mark 83 bomb loads (all unguided iron bombs, also known as dumb bombs) as well as Matra SNEB 68 mm rocket pods (taken from stored Hawker Hunters) to strike at militant positions. Special mounting pads engineered by the Lebanese army were attached to each UH-1 Hueys on the sides and belly to carry the bombs. The air force in collaboration with the engineering regiment locally developed and used two dump bombs variants, a 250 kg LAF-GS-ER2 and a 400 kg LAF-GS-ER3. Usually, helicopters cannot bomb in this method as compared to ground attack aircraft, this became one of the rare moments in history during which helicopters were used in such a way. Also, the Lebanese army had made extensive use of the Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopters equipped with Euromissile HOT missiles and machine guns pods during the conflict.

Air Bases

The Lebanese Air Force has three bases

Squadrons

UH-1H Carrying three bombs.
Two LAF-GS-ER2 on display.

Second Squadron

Employs: Hunter Mk66C and Hunter Mk70A

Eighth Squadron

Employs: Aerospastiale SA-342 Gazelle

Tenth Squadron

Employs: UH-1H

Eleventh Squadron

Employs: UH-1H

Twelfth Squadron

Employs: UH-1H

The helicopters of this squadron are on loan from the squadrons at Beirut Air Basemarker.

Fourteenth Squadron

Employs: UH-1H

The helicopters of this squadron are on loan from the squadrons at Beirut Air Basemarker.

Fifteenth Squadron

Employs: Robinson Raven R44 II

The squadron is part of the Aviation School, which is also based at Rayakmarker.

Aircraft inventory



Fixed wing Aircrafts
Aircraft Origin Type Total Status Notes
AC-208B Combat Caravan Close air support/Border surveillance 1 Active/1 TBD Equipped with MX-15D Camera and Hellfire missiles. 2 more TBD.
Hawker Hunter Fighter/Ground attack 4 Active
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Multirole combat aircraft 10 To be delivered during 2010 Currently LAF air bases are being prepared for the delivery.



Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Out of Service/Stored Aircraft

Future

The air force is currently making efforts to enhance its capabilities after over a decade of negligence, which has affected all branches of the Lebanese Armed Forces. Reported interests include additional number of attack and utility helicopters and a small number of (3 to 6) jet fighters or trainers. Many types have been rumored but still no official statement has been made by the army or the air force. Due to lack of funds, donations from friendly nations are believed to be a strong possibility.

Some media reports mentioned during July 2009 that the United States has conveyed to the UAE its approval for the transfer of BAE Hawkjets to Lebanon. The Lebanese Air Force has been approaching the UAE to acquire a squadron of Hawks jets for advanced training and light air support.

On February 10, 2009, UAE officially announced approval to provide Lebanon with 10 Aérospatiale Puma transport helicopters that can be delivered immediately . Before a day, the As-Safirnewspaper wrote that Lebanon received positive signs from UAE concerning providing Lebanon with 10 PUMA transport helicopters and some Euromissile HOT missiles for the Aérospatiale SA-342L Gazelle attack helicopters.

On December 16, 2008, Russiamarker announced that it will supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said on Tuesday after a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov.Serdyukov said Moscowmarker 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 . Before all aircraft are shipped to Lebanon they will be repaired and modernized to "export standards". The Russianmarker government has mentioned that the Lebanese pilots will be trained in Russia .Annahar newspaper quoted sources in August 2009 saying that Lebanon requested from Russia sending Russian engineers to checkup Rayak and Kleyate air bases in order to start preparing them to accommodate these jets.

It is also said that Lebanon is approaching Russia for a number of Mi-35 attack helicopters.

A controversial US promise to supply Lebanon with AH-1Cobra attack helicopter came into discussions during 2008; however, that promise did not see the light yet, nor was it clearly confirmed.

References

  1. " Lebanese Air Force - History 1". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. Retrieved on December 5, 2008.


External links



Helicopters
Aircraft
Origin
Type
Total
Status
Notes
AB-205/UH-1H Utility/Bomber/Attack helicopter 23 Active Some with local modifications to carry 250 kg and 400 kg bombs or SNEB Matra 68mm rocket launchers
Aérospatiale SA-342L Gazelle Naval patrol/Battlefield scout/Anti-tank 8 Active UAE will help the Lebanese Army to restore three of the original batch delivered in 1980 . Additionally, one was damaged during training and it is currently inactive.
Aérospatiale SA-330 Puma Utility and transport helicopter 17 Stored/TBD Ten of them to be delivered by UAE.
AgustaWestland AW139 Executive VIP transport 1 Active Presidential helicopter.
Robinson R44 Trainer/Light utility helicopter 4 Active
Sikorsky S-61N MkII Firefighting/Rescue 3 Active On behalf of the Ministry of Interior.
Aircraft
Origin
Total
Status
Notes
RQ-11 Raven 12 Active
Aircraft
Total
Notes
Aérospatiale SA-319 Alouette III 3 Retired from military service Currently being used for crop spraying
Augusta-Bell AB 212 5 To be made operational
Dassault Mirage III E/D 12 Sold to Pakistan in 2000
Dassault Falcon 20 1
de Havilland Dove 1
de Havilland Vampire 16
Fouga Magister CM-170 10 Four of them will be refurbished and back to service for training purposes
Havilland Chipmunk 6
Macchi M.B.308 1
North American T-6 Texan 16
Percival Prentice 3
Percival Proctor 3
Rockwell Shrike Turbo Commander 690 1 Destroyed by 1982
Savoia Marchetti SM.79 4
Scottish Aviation Bulldog 6 Remaining 3 are currently in storage
Sud Aviation SA-319 Alouette III 14

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