Lebanese Air Force



History Page 3




Hawker Hunter

50 Years





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It wasn't long after the integration of the de Havillad Vampires that the air force was asked to represent its choice of the next generation of fighter jets.  A study was carried out and in 1955 the air force presented the Hawker Siddley Hunter as the preferred choice.  The Hawker Hunter was already getting famous with the Royal Air Force and many other major European Air Forces of the time as their frontline fighter.  Thus the Lebanese Air Force ordered the first of the Hunters in 1958 which were paid for by the US, as an act of strong solidarity with the Lebanese Government at the time.  The first 5 Hunter F.6s were delivered in 1959, all believed to be from Royal Air Force stocks.  A further Hunter F.6 was delivered in 1962.












Above:  A photo showing Air Force commander General Emile Boustany during the delivery of the first 6 Hawker Hunters to Lebanon.  Note the distinctive raked Lebanese flags on tails. 

Photo kindly donated by David Griffin.






Left:  A Hunter in a menacing mood doing an insanely low level pass.






The Lebanese Air Force was quite happy with the performance of the Hawker Hunter from the early days.  Similarly with the de Havilland Vampires, Lebanese pilots were sent to Chivenor for training.  David Griffin in his book "Hawker Hunter 1951-2007" writes: "Lebanese pilots were sent to Chivenor for training where they proved to be as good as the Royal Air Force pilots".

The long awaited second order of the Hunters came in 1964 for 7 additional ex-Belgian Air Force frames, 3 of which were twin seater trainers.  These trainers were converted from the standard Belgian F.6s and thus, had the more powerful engines than the standard Hunter twin-seaters.  All 7, 4 single seaters brought to F.70 standards and 3 converted to T.66s, were delivered by 1966.







The final order of 6 Hawker Hunters by the air force came in 1974 with deliveries expected for 1975.  These were former Royal Air Force F.6s and were brought up to the Lebanese F.70 (also referred to as FGA.70) standards and were to make up for the few lost Hunters in combat, training and to attrition through the years.  Deliveries of the first 3 Hunters were completed in 1975 however, due to the uncertainty created by the Lebanese Civil War, the deliveries of the remaining 3 were delayed and were only completed in 1977.  With this final purchase, the number of Hawker Hunters bought and operated by Lebanon totalled 19 stretched through a period of 19 years!






Left:  Sometime during the late 60s and the early 70s, the Lebanese Air Force Hunters were sporting an eye-catching red paint applied to the nose, wingtips and the tail section.  Here one of the Hunter T.66 twin-seater (L-280) is seen at the Beirut AB during routine maintenance.






The Hawker Hunter served longer than any other combat aircraft with the Lebanese Air Force.  Standard weapons included 4x30 mm Aden cannons, free drop 100 kg, 227 kg and 454 kg bombs and the 68 mm SNEB Matra rocket pods.  They 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 Hawker Hunter was lost in 1989 near Batroun during a routine training flight with pilot ejecting safely.  It's combat history with the Lebanese Air Force include minor air to air engagements with the Israeli Air Force jets, and ground attack missions in 1973, 1976, 1983 and 1984.












Above left:  A Lebanese Air Force Hunter FGA.70 (L-285) seen during a routine check at Dunsfold, UK in 1976 prior to delivery.  Photo copyright Robin Walker.




Above right:  The same Hunter FGA.70 (L-285) sitting at Dunsfold, UK waiting its delivery ferry flight to Lebanon.  The deliveries of the last 3 Hunters were delayed for more than a year due to the Lebanese Civil War.








The Hawker Hunter could be considered the flag carrier of the Lebanese Air Force, witnessing different stages of the modern history of Lebanon and amazingly surviving many armed conflicts with some still spotted in 2007 being prepared for yet another combat mission despite its age.  It still remains an icon for Lebanese Air Force fans and enthusiasts of the type around the world. 



Right:  A Hawker Hunter T.66 in the usual Lebanese Air Force colours at the Rayaq AB.  All Lebanese Hunters retained the original Royal Air Force camouflage paint.










Above and below:  After becoming under hostile fire at the Beirut Air Force base, Lebnanese Air Force Hunters were moved to the Halat air base between

1983 to 1990.  Later these jets were flown to Kleyate AF base and into their final base in Rayaq in the Bekaa Valley.














Left:  Photo taken in August 2007 in the Rayaq Air Base shows a Hunter FGA.70 being prepared for combat in the battle of Nahr el-Bared refugee camp.  Note the jet flash of the engine at the rear.  The story of the Lebanese Hunters is far from over as they were re-introduced into active service during 2008.

  Photo: Lebanese Air Force.






Above left:  The Hunter T.66 (L-286) deploys the tail chute after landing at the Rayak AF base after a routine training mission on November 20, 2008.

Above right:  Line up of 3 Lebanese Air Force Hawker Hunter jets at the Rayak AF base getting ready to fly on November 20, 2008.

Both photos courtesy of the Lebanese Air Force.



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