Lebanese Air Force

 

 

Air Bases

 

 

 

The Lebanese Air Force currently operates 4 air bases.  The Beirut AB at the Beirut International Airport (aka Rafic Hariri International) in Khalde, the Kleyate AB north of the city of Tripoli, the Rayaq AB, located in the east in the middle of the Bekaa Valley and the Hamat AB in the Batroun district which was formerly inaugurated in 2010.  Historically, other small air strips and airports have been operated including the Istabel airport, south of the town of Chtoura in the Bekaa Valley and Iyate (Ayate) airport, near the city of Baalbek in the north east.  Between 1983-1990, the Halate air strip near the town of Byblos was home for the air force jets while during the same period, most of the helicopter force was also based in small areas north of Beirut in Jounieh and Adma.

 

 

 

Beirut Air Base

(BEY/OLBA)

 

 

 

The Beirut Air Base was established in 1950, right after the formation of the air force.  During the early years, Rayaq was the main air base however, the air force wanted to establish another air base close to the capital and after studying most of the areas around Beirut, it was concluded that the new site for the Beirut International airport in Khalde was best fit.
The Lebanese Air Force currently occupies part of the west end of the Rafic Hariri International airport and has been the home of most of the helicopter force for almost 50 years, as well as the Hawker Hunters, Fouga Magisters and other aircraft during certain periods.  It is currently the home of the Bell UH-1H Hueys and the Aerospatiale SA.342 Gazelles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left:  The main hangar at the Beirut Air Base shows 2 UH-1H Hueys parked outside and several others resting inside.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right:  Another photo taken from the south end of the airport shows 3 UH-1H Hueys at their usual spot.  The Beirut Air Base equipment is usually seen by incoming passengers landing on rwy 16/34.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian

 

 

 

              

Below: An aerial view of the Beirut AF base shows 15 UH-1H Hueys of the air force parked outside the two hangars.  An all white Bell- 212 (possibly owned by the UN) is also seen outside the hangar getting some protection from the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kleyate Air Base

(KLE/OLKA)

 

 

 

Located in the far north, between the city of Tripoli and the Syrian border, it is best known to have been the home of the Mirage III fighters between 1968 to 2000.  Until their introduction in 1968, the Kleyate Air Base was home of the air force's first jets, the de Havilland Vampires which were later transferred to the Rayaq Air Base and eventually retired.
The Air Base was under Syrian control between 1976 to 2005 serving as one of the Syrian army's strongholds in the north.  It became the target to Israeli aggression in July 2006.  It is equipped with several fortified bunkers and an all concrete 3000 meters rwy (6/24).  It was renamed after late (slain) president Rene Mouawad and is currently home of several Bell UH-1H Hueys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right:  A TV video capture of Kleyate Air Base believed to be from the 70s shows a force of 6 Mirage III EL fighters of the Lebanese Air Force at the main hangar of the airport.  This Air base was the centre of operations during the Nahr el-Bared aerial bombings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rayaq Air Base

(RAY/OLRA)

 

 

 

Located in the middle of the Bekaa Valley to the east, between the towns of Zahle and Baalbek, it symbolizes the Lebanese Air Force best and home for most of the aircraft types that have seen service and the final resting place for almost all retiring planes.
It has a rich history with different armies and air forces that have been involved in the Middle East, dating back as far as 1914 including the Germans, Ottoman Turks, British and the French and became the first air base for the Lebanese Air Force in 1949.
It is equipped with several hangars, most built by the French and later by Lebanon, an all concrete 3000 meter rwy (4/22) and the Aviation school for pilots training.
It was targeted by Israel in July 2006 and is currently the home of the Hawker Hunters, Bulldogs, UH-1H and Raven R44 II helicopters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above left:  M.S. 406s of the Group de Chasse 1/7 based in the Rayaq in the spring of 1940.  This unit had begun conversion to the M.S. 406 in December 1938, and flew sorties against Allied forces during May-July 1941.

 

 

 

 

 

Above right:  Photo dating from 1965 shows two SM.79s of the Lebanese Air Force at Rayaq AB, clear evidence that the type was still in service at least to the mid 60s.
Photo copyright George Trussell.

 

 

 

 

 

Left:  The all concrete runway 4/22 of Rayaq Air Base at present. 
The airport was briefly used by MEA during the civil war.  Henry Kissinger also landed in Rayaq for talks in Lebanon.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian

 

 

 

 

      


    Hamat Air Base

      



     Inaugurated in 2010, the Hamat AF Base is located in the Batroun district, near the town of Wujh el-Hajar and is currently home of the IAR-330        Pumas.

     The base is formed on an old 1500 m asphalt airstrip built by the Phallange militias in 1976.

     It is rumored that the Hamat AF Base will be the home of a future propeller fixed wing squadron to be acquired by US funds.

 

 

 

Halate Air Base

(Closed)

 

 

 

In addition to the above 3 Air Bases, the Halate Air Base or also known as the Halate Air Strip near the historic town of Byblos, 40 km north of Beirut, served as a satellite base for the Lebanese Air Force between 1983 and 1990 when all the air bases became under control of anti-government forces and militias.
It is a section of the Beirut-Tripoli highway which was turned into a 1600 meters rwy and became the home of the Hawker Hunters, Fouga Magisters and the Bulldogs.  The short rwy and the difficult terrain surrounding it became a challenge for pilots to take off and land.  But Lebanese Air Force pilots soon became adapted to these conditions and operated with quite ease.  A French Super Etendard jet, piloted by one of the aces of the Armee Del'Air could only land after 3 attempts and called the Lebanese pilots "crazy" in a humorous mood.
It was connected back to the highway in 1991 leaving little record of the once existing airport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left:  The short rwy of the Halate air strip which served as a satellite Air Base between 1983 to 1990 and was made by the help of the US and the British.  This was the main highway between Beirut and Tripoli and remained closed during these years and regular traffic was transferred to the alternative road closer to coast, seen here at the far right of the photo.
Photo copyright unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left:  A Lebanese Hawker Hunter taxis down the runway at Halat air force base during the 80s.  This example appears to be armed with a twin SNEB Matra 68 mm ungiuded rocket pods which were standard armament of the Lebanese Hunters for many decades.

 

 

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