Lebanese Air Force



History Page 6




Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma

Despite the ongoing Civil War and the chaotic situation that the army found itself during this period, the Lebanese Air Force was the only branch of the Armed Forces that was still after new equipment and getting funds for new purchases.  In 1980, the air force received 6 Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma medium transport helicopters from France.  There have been numerous reports claiming that these were not built in France but were license copies manufactured by IAR Ghimbav SA in Brasov, Romania.  The fleet of the Pumas were further complimented by additional six of the same type between 1983 and 1984 thus bringing the total number to 12. 

On April 2010, the air force started recieving 10 former UAE air force IAR-330 Puma helicopters.






Right:  The Lebanese Air Force received 12 SA-330 Pumas between 1980 and 1984.  At least 6 of these were license built Romanian IAR-330s.  It is reported that there are at least 3 survivors of these machines that may be put back into active duty. Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Air Force.






Aerospatiale SA-342 Gazelle

The SA.330 Pumas were followed by 4 Aerospatiale SA.342 Gazelle attack helicopters in 1981, which were armed with heavy machine guns and cannons, unguided rocket packs and HOT anti-tank guided missiles.  Between 1983 and 1984, the Lebanese Air Force received the second order of 4 SA.342K Gazelles, greatly enhancing its attack capabilities. 
The Pumas and the Gazelles were based in two satellite bases in Jounieh and Adma north of the capital from 1983 onwards.  Many of these suffered heavy damages on the ground during the clashes in 1990 and the few survivors of both types are currently stored waiting for their overhaul back into active service.












Above left: A Lebanese Air Force SA-342 Gazelle (L-808) armed with the HOT anti-tank missiles.  Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian.




Above right:  An Aerospatiale SA-342 Gazelle (L-811) showing the 68 mm rocket pod. Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian.






The Lebanese Air Force further received 9 surplus ex-UAE air force SA.342 Gazelles in March 2007.  These initially had the yellow desert camouflage and were later painted in the grey/olive green Lebanese air force colours and were heavily involved in the battle of Nahr el-Bared between May and August 2007.






Right:  In March 2007, the air force received 9 surplus SA-342 Gazelle attack helicopters from the UAE which retained the original sand camouflage adopted by many of the Gulf militaries.  This one is seen with only the Lebanese flag without the roundel.  Note the hand written serials (813). 
Photo: Lebanese Air Force.






Below: One of the ex-UAE SA-342 Gazelles (L-816) after getting the Lebanese colours with the flag, roundel and the serials in proper order.  Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian.










Bell 205 UH-1H (Huey/Huey 2)

The events during the mid to late 80s put plans to a standstill and shelved contracts and deals of further modernization of the Lebanese Air Force fleet.  The Taef accord in 1989 put an end to the Civil War but the 90s was characterized by consolidation, as most of the equipment were gradually grounded and retired including the surviving helicopters and the fixed wing aircraft, and the Mirage III fighters were sold to Pakistan in 2000.  However, the air force received 24 surplus US army UH-1H helicopters in 1995 (16), 2000 (3) and 2001 (5).  Currently these helicopters represent the workhorse of the Lebanese Air Force and in the absence of fixed wing aircraft, were later modified to carry out bombing missions in the 2007 events.  

On December 12, 2012, the LAF received 6 Huey 2 helicopters from the US with additional 6 to be received in 2013.  These will replace the older UH-1H helicopters in service.






Right:  During the Nahr el-Bared battle in summer 2007, the army was faced with an unexpected difficulty of heavily fortified bunkers.  As the air force lacking fixed wing aircraft, modified several UH-1H Hueys to carry heavy bombs.  In this picture, the UH-1H (L-1004) is seen carrying a very rare combination of two MK 82 500 lb (227 kg) bombs and the french 400 kg bomb under the belly.  These helicopters were transferred to the Kleyate air force base due to its proximity of the refugee camp where the army fought for over 3 months.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian.










Left:  Another local modification of the Bell UH-1H Huey of the Lebanese Air Force (L-1005), this time carrying the 68 mm SNEB Matra rocket pods on pylons on each side.  When the Hueys were first received, they had no weapons system but during 2007, became one of the heaviest armed Hueys in the world.  Weapons currently include heavy machine guns, free fall bombs weighing up to 454 kg and these rocket pods.  GPS devices were also installed and used giving all weather capabilities.  Other missions include firefighting, search and rescue, agro spraying, utility and transport.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian.








Right:  An Air Force Huey (L-1102) landing at the Beirut AF base after a short mission over the city.  Most duties are currently performed by these helicopters.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian









Robinson Raven R44 II

In January 2005, the air force received two Robinson Raven R44 II helicopters form the US.  These were brought in to serve as primary trainers for student pilots.  Until then, trainings were carried out on the UH-1H Hueys which were seen as a costly option to serve as trainers.  Two more Robinson Raven R44s were bought in late 2005 making a total of 4 of the type.  Two more of the type were added in 2014 to make up for lost frames to attrition.






Right:  A Robinson Raven R44 during a routine training mission.  These were first had an all white paint and the current one as seen in the photo, was adopted later.  These R44 Raven II helicopters are the only machines that do not carry the air force roundel.
Photo copyright Vatche Mitilian






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