The Lebanese Air Force (LAF) (Arabic: Al Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Lubnaniyya) was established in 1949, six years after gaining independence from France. Soon after its establishment, a number of aircraft were donated by the British, French, and Italian governments.
Having flown the Hawker Hunter and Mirage IIIEL fighter jets, the LAF was missing a fighter capability when the Hunters and Mirages were grounded and the Mirages were sold. The Hunters are still airworthy and maintained, but are no longer in active use. For a long time the air force had to rely solely on a helicopter force. But in recent years three Cessna AC 208s Combat Caravans were acquired for reconnaissance and attack, and in June of 2018 the country received six Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano’s.
The small, but potent air force has had its fair share of struggles but is now rising in numbers as well as professionalism.
We spoke to Brigadier General Ziad Haykal, who climbed the ladder all the way from helicopter pilot to Lebanese Air Force Commander. He starts by telling the recent history, in order to emphasize the growth of the LAF.