On October 6, the Lebanese Air Force (LAF) received six McDonnell Douglas MD 530F+ light scout attack helicopters from the US as a part of a military grant.
The helicopters were handed over to the LAF during a ceremony that was held at Beirut Air Base. The ceremony was attended by senior Lebanese officers and members of the Defense Cooperation Office of the US Embassy in Beirut.
The light helicopters, which were supplied under a contract signed in 2018, will improve the reconnaissance and counter-insurgency (COIN) capabilities of the LAF.
The MD 530F+ has an operational range of 589 kilometers. The LAF will reportedly equip its helicopters with the WESCAM MX-10D EO/IR laser designator and arm them with APKWS [Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System] 70 mm laser-guided rockets.
The US stepped up its support for the LAF in the past few years. On 31 October 2017, the US handed over two A-29 Super Tucano COIN aircraft to Lebanon. Six more A-29s were handed over on 13 June 2018.
While the US is helping the LAF rebuild its reconnaissance and COIN capabilities, it continues to prevent it from acquiring air combat or air-defense capabilities. This strategy is meant to maintain the superiority of the Israeli Air Force.
The US military aid for Lebanon is mainly meant to drive the army away from Hezbollah. This is not happening, however. The Lebanese military maintains strong relations with the group, which is a close ally of Iran and Syria.
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