The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon are formally inaugurating Bell UH-1 Huey helicopters, valued at over $24 million U.S. dollars as the newest additions to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) air fleet. These helicopters represent the enduring partnership between Lebanon and the United States. The event was attended by various officials from both the U.S. and Lebanon, including Brig. Gen. Ziad Haikal and Col. Michel Saifi of the LAF, as well as representatives from the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Central Command. The Huey’s versatility allows the LAF to conduct many important missions from MEDEVAC and search and rescue, to combat resupply, to transporting a platoon of fully equipped soldiers anywhere in the country in response to a crisis.
The U.S. Department of State recently approved an additional $210 million in foreign military financing for the LAF. These funds will increase the capacity of the LAF Army, Navy, and Air Force for years to come. The United States is committed to pursuing additional ways that we can help the LAF continue its vital role in securing and protecting Lebanon. In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced a $120 million assistance package to provide the LAF with close air support capabilities. This package included six MD-530F+ light attack helicopters worth $94 million, six Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles worth $11 million, three Huey II transport helicopters with door guns worth $31 million and night vision devices worth more than $16 million.
The LAF has been flying the UH-1 series helicopters since the early 1990s in multiple roles. Most recently, its Huey IIs extinguished the fires caused by the port explosion in Beirut. The Huey II is an upgraded version of Bell UH-1H multimission, medium-lift helicopter, designed and manufactured by Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron. These aircraft will augment their existing fleet and be utilized for search and rescue, troop transport, firefighting and utility missions. The Bell UH-1H-II is a versatile, single engine helicopter with high operational readiness and low operating costs. It has the best payload in its class and excels in multiple mission configurations.
The UH-1H helicopter has a two-blade, semi-rigid main rotor and a two-blade tail rotor. It is also equipped with a new skid type landing gear. Combining a modernised airframe of the basic UH-1H helicopter and Bell 212 components, the OEM-standard Huey II upgrade offers lower direct maintenance costs and greater mission flexibility. It is equipped with new features such as increased horsepower, crashworthy seats, multifunctional interior, new wiring and digital cockpit. The multi-mission Huey II platform is powered by a Honeywell T53-L-703 turboshaft engine, which generates a take-off power of 1,342kW. Standard fuel capacity of the helicopter is 799l and an auxiliary fuel of 568l can be carried optionally to increase the helicopter’s range.