Lebanese Air Force

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Lebanese Air Force
القوات الجوية اللبنانية
Lebanon Air Force seal.svg
Active 1 June 1949 – present
Country  Lebanon
Type Air force
Role Aerial warfare
Size 2,500 active personnel
67 aircraft
Part of Lebanese Armed Forces
Headquarters Ministry of Defense
Motto(s) "Here I am, Lebanon's sky."
Anniversaries The 1st of August
Engagements
Website lebarmy.gov.lb
Commanders
Current
commander
General Ghassan Chahine
Insignia
Flag Flag of the Lebanese Air Force.svg
Roundel Roundel of Lebanon.svg Roundel of Lebanon - Low Visibility.svg
Fin Flash Flag of Lebanon.svg Fin Flash of Lebanon - Low Visibility.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Cessna 208
Gazelle SA342L
EMB 314
Helicopter Huey UH-1H
Huey II
Puma SA330
AW139
Sikorsky S-61N
Reconnaissance Raven RQ-11B
Boeing Insitu ScanEagle
Trainer Robinson R44
Scottish Aviation Bulldog
Transport Cessna 414

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

History[edit]

The Lebanese Air Force were 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 aircraft were donated by the British, French, and Italian governments. Britain donated 4 Percival Prentices and 2 World War II-era Percival Proctors, while Italy donated 4 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers which were mainly used for transportation.

Savoia Marchetti SM.79.

In 1953, jet fighters were introduced when 16 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 Pakistan.[1]

De Havilland Vampire at the Israeli Air Force museum in Hatzerim, bearing colours of the Lebanese Air Force.

In the absence of advanced fighter aircraft, the air force currently relies on a helicopter force, a squadron of Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, and three Cessna AC 208s for reconnaissance and attack.

Combat history[edit]

The Lebanese Air Forces have a long history operating Hawker Hunter jets since 1958. A Lebanese Hawker Hunter shot down an Israeli jet over Kfirmishki in the early 1960s and its pilot was captured by the Lebanese Armed Forces.[citation needed] One Lebanese Hawker Hunter was shot down on the first day of the Six-Day War by an Israeli Air Force Mirage IIICJ.[2] The Hawker Hunters have not flown any combat sorties since September 17, 1983. This was at a time when the French and Americans were rebuilding the Lebanese Army. Three F.Mk.70s were made airworthy, and resumed 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 Byblos. 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 Rayak. The last loss took place in 1989 near Batroun during routine training, when the undercarriage failed to lower, causing the jet to crash. The pilot ejected safely from the doomed aircraft and landed in the Mediterranean 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 operations in the Nahr el-Bared camp in North Lebanon, lacking any airworthy, fixed-wing strike aircraft, the Lebanese Army modified several UH-1H Huey helicopters to permit the carrying of 500 pound Mark 82 and 1000 pound Mark 83 bombs (all unguided iron bombs, also known as dumb bombs) as well as Matra SNEB 68 mm rocket pods (taken from stored Hawker Hunters). Special mounting pads engineered by the Lebanese Army were attached to each Huey on the sides and belly to carry the bombs. The air force, in collaboration with the engineering regiment, developed and used two dumb bomb variants, the 250 kg LAF-GS-ER2 and the 400 kg LAF-GS-ER3.[3] Usually, helicopters cannot bomb using this method, in comparison to ground attack aircraft, so this became one of the rare moments in history during which helicopters were used in such a way. The Lebanese Army also made extensive use of Aérospatiale Gazelles armed with Euromissile HOT anti-tank guided missiles and machine gun pods.

The Lebanese air force played a decisive role throughout the Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon, conducting surveillance operations and precision attacks against terrorist groups Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who had invaded the border town of Arsal in 2014 and subsequently kept positions along the outskirts of Arsal and al-Qaa, keeping them at bay and severely hindering their movement. Most notably, the air force put their AC-208 Combat Caravans to effective use during the Dawn of the Outskirts / Fajr Al Jouroud operation in 2017, striking terrorist targets with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and, in a rare display of joint warfare tactics by different branches of the Lebanese Armed Forces, using their laser designators to pinpoint high-value targets for M712 Copperhead shells being used by the First Artillery Regiment deployed along the front.

Air bases[edit]

The Lebanese Air Force has four bases:

Squadrons[edit]

Lebanese air force puma helicopter class cockpit

First squadron
Employs: Scottish aviation bulldog

Fourth Squadron
Employs: AC-208B Combat Caravan

Seventh Squadron
Employs: Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano

Eighth Squadron
Employs: Aerospastiale SA-342 Gazelle

Ninth Squadron
Employs: IAR-330 SM Puma

Tenth Squadron
Employs: UH-1H

Eleventh Squadron
Employs: UH-1H

Twelfth Squadron
Employs: Huey 2

Fourteenth Squadron
Employs: UH-1H
The helicopters of this squadron are on loan from the squadrons at Kleyate Air Base.

Fifteenth Squadron
Employs: Robinson Raven R44 II
The squadron is part of the Aviation School, which is also based at Rayak.

Sixteenth Squadron
Employs: Sikorsky S-61N MkII


Current inventory[edit]

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Cessna 208 United States attack / CAS AC-208 3[4] modified to carry AGM-114 missiles for CAS
Embraer EMB 314 Brazil attack / COIN A-29A 6[4]
Helicopters
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H/H-II 29[4] 23 are the Huey II variant[5]
Sikorsky S-61 United States VIP / water bomber 3[4] previously operated by Bristow Helicopters[6]
SA 330 Puma France utility / transport 11[4] 6 are the IAR 330 variant[5]
MD500 Defender United States light attack MD 530G 6 on order[7]
Aérospatiale Gazelle France scout / anti-armor SA342 7[4]
Trainer Aircraft
Bulldog T1 United Kingdom basic trainer 3[4]
Robinson R44 United States rotorcraft trainer 4[4]
UAV
RQ-11 Raven United States surveillance 12[8] donated by the United States

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Air Force". Lebanese Army. Archived from the original on 2007-12-31.
  2. ^ Griffin, David J. (2006). Hawker Hunter 1951 to 2007. Lulu.com. p. 336. ISBN 9781430305934.
  3. ^ Njeim, Colonel Antoine; Rima Dumet (October 2007). "Archived copy" القوات الجوية (in Arabic). Lebanese Army. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Arms Transfers Database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Sikorsky S61 Halat, Lebanon". helihub.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  7. ^ "MD Helicopters confirms Kenyan, Lebanese MD530 deals". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Heavy U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon Arrives ahead of Elections". Naharnet Newsdesk. April 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-09.