Lebanese Air Force

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Lebanese Air Force
Lebaneseairforcelogo.jpg
Seal of the Lebanese Air Force
Active June 1, 1949 - Present
Country Lebanon
Branch Air Force
Part of Lebanese Army Command
Headquarters Beirut Air Base
Motto Here I am Lebanon's Sky
Commanders
Commander Brigadier General Ghassan Chahine
Notable
commanders
Brigadier General Emile Boustani
Insignia
Emblem Lebaneseairforceemblem.png
Roundel Roundel of the Lebanese Air Force.svg

The Lebanese Air Force (LAF) (Arabic: القوات الجوية اللبنانيةAl 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

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

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 British, French, and Italian governments, with additional planes donated by Britain and Italy later that same year. 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.1 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.2

The air force, in the absence of advanced fixed wing aircraft, currently relies on a helicopter force and Hawker Hunter jets that have been put back in service in late 2008. The Lebanese Air Force consists of six squadrons distributed between 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 Lebanese Armed Forces.citation needed 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 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.3 The last loss took place in 1989 near Batroun during routine training, when the undercarriage failed to lower, leading the jet to crash. The pilot ejected safely from the doomed jet and landed 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 operations in the Nahr el-Bared camp in North Lebanon, lacking any airworthy fixed-wing strike aircraft, the Lebanese army modified several UH-1H 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 UH-1 Huey on the sides and belly to carry the bombs. The air force, in collaboration with the engineering regiment, developed and used two dumb bombs variants, the 250 kg LAF-GS-ER2 and the 400 kg LAF-GS-ER3.4 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. The Lebanese army also made extensive use of Aérospatiale Gazelles equipped with the Euromissile HOT missile and machine guns pods.

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, Hunter Mk70A, and AC-208B Combat Caravan

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: UH-1H
The helicopters of this squadron are on loan from the squadrons at Beirut Air Base.5

Fourteenth Squadron

Employs: UH-1H
The helicopters of this squadron are on loan from the squadrons at kleyaat 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

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft67 Origin Type Total Status Notes
Fixed wing Aircraft
AC-208B Combat Caravan  United States Close air support/Border surveillance 3 Active Equipped with MX-15D Camera and Hellfire missiles.8 3 delivered
Hawker Hunter  United Kingdom Ground attack 4 6 Active
Scottish Aviation Bulldog  United Kingdom Trainer 3 6 Active

6 Scottish Aviation Bulldogs received in 1975, Currently 3 Bulldogs remain, 1 shot down during a sortie over hostile territories, and 2 lost in accidents and after which they were grounded and stored.9 Restored back into active service in 2010

Helicopters
AB-205/UH-1H/Huey II  United States Utility/Bomber/Attack helicopter 29 Active Some with local modifications to carry 250 kg and 400 kg bombs or SNEB Matra 68mm rocket launchers. 23 Huey 1, 6 Huey 2.
Aérospatiale SA-342L Gazelle  France Naval patrol/Battlefield scout/Anti-tank 8 Active Lebanon signed a contract with Eurotech to revamp and upgrade 13 Gazelles of the original and ex-UAE deliveries.10
AgustaWestland AW139 Executive(VIP)  Italy VIP transport 1 Active "Cedar 1" Presidential helicopter.
IAR 330SM / Aérospatiale SA-330 Puma  Romania/ France Gunship, Utility and transport helicopter 10/7 Active/Stored
Robinson R44  United States Trainer/Light utility helicopter 4 Active
Sikorsky S-61N MkII  United States Firefighting/Rescue 3 Active On behalf of the Ministry of Interior.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
RQ-11B Raven11  United States 1212 Active

Historic

Aircraft6 Total Notes
Aérospatiale SA-319 Alouette II 3 Between 1959 and 1960 4 SA-319 Alouette II received, retired in early 80s13 currently used for crop spraying

On display At the Lebanese Air Force Museum at Rayak Air Base in Rayak14

Augusta-Bell AB 212 5 First batch of 6 AB 212s arrived between 1973 and 1974, last batch received in 1979, to be made operational
Dassault Mirage III E/D 12 Sold to Pakistan in 2000
Dassault Falcon 20 1
de Havilland Dove 1 Received a DH.104 in 1951,served for over 40 years. Was used for transport as well as general purpose and reconnaissance missions1
de Havilland Vampire 16 Ordered by 1952, started arriving in 1953,The single seat Vampires served through the 60s, while at least 2 twin-seater trainer Vampires remained active to the early 70s15

A T.55 is on display At the Lebanese Air Force Museum at Rayak Air Base in Rayak14

Fouga Magister CM-170 10 Delivered in 1966, 5 more were bought from the German Air Force Further (Luftwaffe) in 197213

Four of them will be refurbished and back to service for training purposes16 On display At the Lebanese Air Force Museum at Rayak Air Base in Rayak14

de Havilland Chipmunk 6 6 DH Chipmunk T.20s and T.30s were ordered and received between 1950 and the early 60s. retired in 197415
Macchi M.B.308 1
North American T-6 Texan 16 Ordered and received in 1952,and final batch of T-6 Harvards was received in 1957, The Harvards were retired in 1972.15
Percival Prentice 3 In 1949 Britain donated 3 Percival Proctors they were received In May 1949.12
Percival Proctor 3 In 1949 Britain donated 3 Percival Proctors they were received In May 1949.12
Rockwell Shrike Turbo Commander 690 1 Destroyed by 1982
Savoia Marchetti SM.79 4 In 1949 Italy donated 4 SM.79, they were retired in the early 60s. The aircraft were stored in excellent storage conditions. They were redonated to Italy to the Italian Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni and elsewhere1
Sud Aviation SA-319 Alouette III 14 On display At the Lebanese Air Force Museum at Rayak Air Base in Rayak14

Future

On February 10, 2009, UAE officially announced approval to provide Lebanon with 10 Aérospatiale Puma transport helicopters that can be delivered immediately.17 UAE already delivered four helicopters on April 21, 2010; remaining six to follow.18

Some media reports mentioned during July 2009 that the United States has conveyed to the UAE its approval for the transfer of BAE Hawk jets to Lebanon.19

On January 22, 2010, Lebanon signed a contract with Eurotech to revamp 13 Gazelle helicopters of the original and ex-UAE delivered in addition to equip the ex-UAE Puma helicopters.10

During the meeting of the Lebanese-American Joint Military Committee in February 2010, the US expressed its readiness to supply Lebanon with either the Hawker Beechcraft AT 6B or the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano by 2013; the final choice would depend on which of them the Pentagon will choice for the US forces.20

On February 27, 2010, Lebanon decided to replace previously offered MiG-29 jets with Mi-24 attack helicopters.21

Crashes and accidents

Non-Fatal Crashes And Accidents

  • On November 20, 2010, a Raven R44 helicopter (L-1502) made an emergency landing on Jal el-Dib highway when its engine stopped working during a drill for Lebanon Independence Day parade. Both pilots and helicopter were unharmed.
  • On December 3, 2010, a Gazelle helicopter made a crash landing in Afqa. The two pilot were unharmed, although the helicopter sustained some damage.

Fatal Crashes And Accidents

  • On May 12, 2006, a UH-1H helicopter crashed in the Neiha mountains. Four air force personnel, including the 2 pilots, were killed.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Mitilian, Vatche. "Lebanese Air Force - History 1". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Air Force". Lebanese Army. 
  3. ^ Mitilian, Vatche. "Hawker Hunter 50 Years". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  4. ^ Njeim, Colonel Antoine; Rima Dumet (October 2007). "القوات الجوية" (in Arabic). Lebanese Army. Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Lebanese Air Force - Order of Battle". Scramble. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  6. ^ a b c d Mitilian, Vatche. "Lebanese Air Force - Aircraft Inventory". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  7. ^ "Order of Battle - Lebanon". MilAvia Press. April 2008. 
  8. ^ "تسلم القوات الجوية طائرة نوع Cessna caravan 208 B" (in Arabic). Lebanese Armed Forces. April 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  9. ^ Mitilian, Vatche. "Lebanese Air Force - History 5". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. 
  10. ^ a b "French Company to Revamp Lebanon's Gazelle Helicopters, Equip Pumas". Naharnet. January 22, 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "Lebanon gets Raven mini UAV from U.S.". United Press International. March 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-24. dead link
  12. ^ "Heavy U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon Arrives ahead of Elections". Naharnet Newsdesk. April 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  13. ^ a b Mitilian, Vatche. "Lebanese Air Force - History 4". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Lebanon Air Force Museum". 
  15. ^ a b c Mitilian, Vatche. "Lebanese Air Force - History 4". Vatche Mitilian's Independent Guide To The Lebanese Air Force. 
  16. ^ "Le retour du père Fouga" (in French). Liban News Blog. June 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  17. ^ "الامارات تمنح لبنان عشر طائرات مروحية "بوما" جاهزة للتسليم فورا" (in Arabic). El-Nashra. February 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  18. ^ "UAE Delivers First Batch of Puma Helicopters to Lebanese Army". Naharnet. April 21, 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  19. ^ Khawaji, Riad (July 2009). "سياسة أميركية متقدمة نحو الجيش اللبناني" (in Arabic). Security & Defense International. Retrieved 2009-07-17. dead link
  20. ^ Maakroun, Joe (February 12, 2010). "واشنطن تعرض على بيروت طائرات ذات سلاح خفيف بحلول العام 2013" (in Arabic). Assafir. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Russia Agrees to Provide Lebanon with Mi-24 Helicopters Instead of MiG Fighters". Naharnet. February 26, 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 

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