To raise money for new aircraft, the Lebanese Ministry of Defense is auctioning off five older Hawker Hunter fighter jets and three Sikorsky S-61 helicopters.
“The Hawker Hunter aircraft and Sikorsky helicopters have been nonoperational for many years, in the absence of financial resources to maintain them,” Lebanese Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Ziad Haikal said. “This public auction will be the first step to restructure the training fleet and firefighting capabilities.”
The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is focusing on three areas to protect its airspace: a radar network, missile defense systems and fighter jets. But the country’s economic crisis is posing obstacles to the military purchases.
Contributing to the Lebanese Air Force’s effort to update its aircraft, the U.S. donated three Huey II helicopters worth $32 million in March 2021. The same U.S. military aid program will supply six MD 530 scout helicopters as well.
“This equipment, like donations we have made before, directly contributes to the professional capabilities of the LAF, ensuring its operational readiness to defend Lebanon and its people,” U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea said.
During the past 15 years, the Lebanese Air Force has received nearly 40% of the approximately $160 million in annual U.S. military grant aid to the LAF.
The Lebanese Air Force was established in 1949 using donated aircraft from Britain, France and Italy. With 2,500 personnel, the Air Force operates 68 aircraft and 18 unmanned aerial vehicles.