Updated December 14, 10:00 GMT
The United States is to give the Lebanese Armed Forces more than $120 million in additional military aid for border security and counter-terrorism operations, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said.
Ambassador Elizabeth Richard was speaking after a Wednesday, December 13 meeting with the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The U.S. is to supply new systems valued at more than $120 million including “six new MD 530G light attack helicopters, six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles, and leading edge communication and night vision devices,” Richard said. “This advanced equipment will help the Army build on its steady strong capability to conduct border security and counterterrorism operations and importantly to defend the country and the people of Lebanon.”
#US announcement after the visit by General Votel & Ambassador Richard to Grand Serail today is a great sign of support to #Lebanese Armed Forces, my government and #Lebanon’s stability. 3 new programs worth 120 million dollars. Very thankful. @usembassybeirut
— Saad Hariri (@saadhariri) December 13, 2017
“The announcement of these programs reaffirms the U.S. Government’s commitment to the Lebanese-American partnership and support of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in their capacity as the sole defender of Lebanon,” Lieutenant Commander Rebecca Rebarich, Department of Defense spokesperson told The Defense Post
“The announced programs are new DoD assistance to Lebanon for 2018, but were planned as a part of DoD’s efforts to build the LAF’s capability to conduct border security and counterterrorism operations.”
A U.S. Embassy in Lebanon press release explained the programs further. The first program will provide the LAF a close air support capability through delivery of six new MD 530G light attack helicopters and associated equipment and training, valued at more $94 million, the release said. The MD 530G is an armed aerial scout helicopter equipped with Raytheon’s 70mm TALON laser-guided rocket, a FN Herstal 12.7mm heavy machine gun pod (HMP-400), Dillon Aero’s 7.62mm M134D-H (Hybrid) mini Gatling gun, and an Arnold Defense M260 seven-shot rocket pod. It also carries the L-3 Wescam MX-10 and MX-10D EO/IR tactical surveillance systems incorporating infrared imaging sensors, precision optics, a laser designator and an advanced communications suite.
The second program will provide six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles and associated equipment and training, valued at more than $11 million, the release said. A May 17 Presolicitiation on the FedBizOpps website said that U.S. Naval Air Systems Command intended to award a sole source to Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary to procure “ScanEagle Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV’s), spares, support equipment, tools, training, and support services in support of the Government of Lebanon previously procured ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” estimating the total value to be $11.3 million, to be funded with Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) Case funds.
The third program will provide capabilities to employ joint fire support and close air support through the delivery of communications equipment, electronics equipment, night vision devices, and training, valued at more than $16 million.
A State Department official told The Defense Post the U.S. is “deeply committed to strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces to secure Lebanon’s borders, defend its sovereignty, and preserve its stability.”
“Since 2006, the United States has provided more than $1.5 billion in security assistance to support the capacity of the LAF to secure and safeguard Lebanon’s borders, counter violent extremism, manage threats and respond to crises, interdict items of proliferation concerns, and extend government control throughout the country,” the official said, adding that the LAF is the only legitimate Lebanese government defense arm.
“Through our assistance, we are making sure it has the equipment and training required to do that job,” the official said.
On October 9, Lebanon received from the U.S two A-29 Super Tucano aircraft out of six approved for sale to the country by the U.S. Department of State. The Lebanese authorities procured the aircraft through a $1 billion grant received from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
The U.S. is also training Lebanese Armed Forces.
“U.S. advisors provide training and professional support to the Lebanese armed forces that concentrates not only on operational and tactical competencies, but also instructing the Lebanese Special Operations Forces on all the core aspects of a mission, from planning to execution,” U.S. Central Command Communication Integration’s Major Josh T. Jacques told The Defense Post.