On October 31, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) presented in an official ceremony the first two A-29 Super Tucano warplanes that the Lebanese Air Force (LAF) had received from the US. The ceremony was attended by US ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and General Joseph Aoun Commander of the LAF.
During the ceremony Gen. Aoun said the two A-29 warplanes will “make a qualitative leap in improving the aerial capabilities of the LAF”. Gen. Aoun also said that the delivery of these warplanes proves the commitment of the US to preserve Lebanon’s stability during crises.
“The Lebanese Armed Forces despite its modest military capabilities, has proven that it is an army of determination, professionalism and combat competence. Furthermore, we look forward to equipping the army with the appropriate weapons and equipment to enable it under any circumstance, to protect Lebanon’s borders and preserve its security and stability,” Gen Aoun added.
From its side, US ambassador Richard said during the ceremony that the A-29 combat capabilities will allow the LAF to remain a “national unifying force, a bulwark against extremism and terrorism”.
“Today is also another reminder of the strong bond between the U.S. and Lebanon. Our military partnership is built upon shared national interests and focuses on three pillars: advancing capabilities through Training and Engagement; the transfer of high tech military equipment to build the Army’s capability; and the Defense Institution Building we are doing together to develop planning, logistical, and sustainment capabilities,” Richard said.
A Lebanese security official told Reuters Agency that the A-29s warplanes is a big upgrade for the LAF. The source added that the LAF will use the A-29 warplanes as a as armed observation aircraft.
The A-29 is easy to fly and maintain, and its considered one of the cheapest warplanes to operate. One hour of flight on it costs only $1,000. Due to this the US selected the warplane to arm the LAF and the Afghan Air Force (AAF).
The A-29s supplied to the LAF should be equipped with the AN/AAQ-22 Star SAFIRE II day\night observation and targeting electro-optical system. However, the system was not seen installed on the warplanes during the ceremony.
The LAF A-29s will be armed with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rockets. Back on 2015 Saudi Arabia financed a $462 million deal to supply the LAF with these guided rockets. The LAF A-29s will be also armed with AGM-114 Hellfire II guided missiles that was previously supplied to the LAF by the US.
The LAF is set to receive another four A-29s from the US in the upcoming months. US ambassador Richard announced during the ceremony that second group of Lebanese pilots and maintainers are already on their way to the Moody airbase in the US to start training in the coming weeks.