Lebanese Air Force

 

 

History Page 5

 

 

 

 

 

Dassualt Mirage III EL/DL

  

If the 50s were characterized by purchases from the UK, the love affair with France and the Lebanese Air Force which started with the Alouette IIs continued through the 60s and peaked with the purchase of 12 Dassualt Mirage III E/D fighters.  Dassault gave the Lebanese Mirage IIIs the L serial and the 10 single seaters were designated as Mirage III EL and the 2 twin seaters Mirage III DL.  All of the jets were flown from France to Lebanon between 1968 and 1969.  Even though Lebanese pilots were able to achieve a Mach 1 speed with the Hawker Hunters during steep dives, the Mirage III became the first and only real supersonic fighter with the air force and could achieve a speed of over Mach 2.  But these jets were doomed by bad luck and were stored during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War because of lack of funds.  Efforts to make them operational once again, failed on different occasions until they were eventually sold to Pakistan Air Force in 2000.  The last flying sorties of the Mirage III with the Lebanese Air Force were in 1978.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: A Mirage III DL twin seater of the Lebanese Air Force (L-411).  Note the worn out roundel and the paint near the intake.
This was one of the last examples that kept flying until 1978. 
Photo from the Lebanese Air Force archives.

 

 

 

 

 

Above: One of the most widely distributed photo of a Lebanese Air Force Dassault Mirage III EL (L-504) taken prior to delivery to Lebanon.  The Lebanese Mirages had similar camouflage paint as the Hawker Hunters.  These were later re-registered to L-4** instead of the previous L-5** serials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dassualt Mirage IIIs saw little service with the Lebanese Air Force and were briefly involved in bombing missions of 1973 and possibly in 1976.  A Mirage III EL and a Mirage III DL were lost in non combat incidents with pilots ejecting safely in both occasions.  As uncertainty loomed over Lebanon during the Civil War, it was decided to protect the 10 remaining fighters and later overhaul them back into active service.  For this reason, the Mirages were mothballed in 1978 and 1979 and stored at their home in the Kleyate AB.  Unfortunately, they never flew again for the Lebanese Air Force.

 

 

 

 

 

Right:  A Lebanese Air Force Mirage III EL (L-405) in storage at Kleyate AB, where they were based since their delivery until sold to Pakistan in 2000.  Note the unique Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack on underwing hardpoint.

 

 

 

 

         Three Lebanese Mirage III ELs captured flying in formation (left).  A line up of several Mirage III ELs at the Kleyate Air FOrce base in 1978, the year when most of these jets were  mothballed and grounded for good.

 

 

         

A magnificent shot of 10 Lebanese Air Force Mirage III EL fighters during the 1969 Independence Day parade captured over the

beautiful bay of Jounieh and the Harissa.  Note the Matra R.530 air-to-air missiles carried by all the fighters at display.

 

 

 

Above and below: Two Mirage III multi-role fighters in storage in the Kleyate AF Base hangars appearing

in pristine condition.  These jets were later sold to Pakistan after failing to bring them back into active service.

 

 

 

                        

 

Above: Formation of 4 Lebanese Air Force Mirage III EL fighters over the Bekaa Valley.

Photo via Wajih Mikati from the Lebanese Army Magazine. 

 

 

 

Agusta-Bell 212

 

Until 1973, the Mirage III jets made up the 5th squadron but were re-assigned as the 4th squadron as the newly purchased Agusta Bell 212 started arriving and made up the 5th squadron and were based at Beirut AB.  The Agusta Bell 212 was a license built Bell 212, also known as Bell UH-1N, by the Italian manufacturer Agusta.  The initial batch of 6 AB 212s arrived between 1973 and 1974.  Another six followed in 1979 and the twelve Twin Hueys were capable of airlifting around 150 troops and were used for transport and search and rescue missions.  The Lebanese Air Force is not known to have armed these helicopters and it is believed that at least five remain stored.  In the past few years, there have been attempts to re-introduce these back into active service and may become operational once again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  The Agusta-Bell 212 was the first Italian built equipment for the Lebanese Air Force since the Savoia Marchetti SM.79 and the Macchi 308.

 

 

 

 

 

Left: This Agusta-Bell 212 carrying L-251 serials was the first to be delivered to the Lebanese Air Force in 1973.  From a total of 12 delivered, many were heavily damaged during the Civil War and now there are around five of the type stored and may become operational once again in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

         Scottish Aviation Bulldog

 

         

 

 

By the early 70s, the air force's early and basic trainer fleet was starting to show its age.  These were made up of the T-6 Texan (Harvards) and the DH Chipmunks which were both in service since the early 50s.  These were finally replaced by 6 Scottish Aviation Bulldogs which arrived in 1975.  The Bulldogs served about 20 years with the air force and one was shot down during a sortie over hostile territories, another 2 lost in training accidents in Halat and the Bekaa Valley, after which they were grounded and stored.  Currently, 3 of the surviving Bulldogs are in active service.

 

 

 

 

 

During 1983, the Bulldogs, Fouga Magisters and the Hunters were moved to the Beirut AB, which was the only one outside Syrian controlled territories.  Soon afterwards, the Beirut airport will come under direct fire from the overlooking mountains and all these planes, as seen in this photo, will further move to the Halate base to the north of the capital.

 

 

 

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