Last January an agreement was signed with the French AEROTEC group to refurbish and upgrade the Lebanese air force SA 342 Gazelle fleet. According to the Medias, the agreement includes the number of 13 helicopters to be revamped. A statement laterly made in May by the French Defense Minister Herve Morin said that France was ready to deliver helicopters to help the Lebanese Armed Forces with significant airborne means. The new Gazelle helicopters would be delivered to Lebanon gradually as they will be withdrawn from service in French units and be replaced by the Eurocopter Tigre.
Lebanon has been using the Gazelle helicopter since February 1980 but due civil war these helicopters weren’t used extensively in that decade and rather suffered from clashes between opponents. After 1990 the surviving helicopters of the two initial batches weren’t anymore airworthy and were kept stored. In 2007 the Lebanese Air Force took part in Nahr El-Bared battle with newly received ex-UAE SA 342s. The armament used during this battle consisted mainly of HOT missiles, 12x68mm SNEB rocket pods and FN Herstal 12,7mm pods. Other armament which can be used in Lebanon on the Gazelle is a GIAT Sabord 20mm cannon or LAU-32 rocket pods. The Lebanese Gazelle is also used in Spec Ops configuration with its side doors removed.
The AEROTEC group as mentioned on its website is a French company specialised in defence aeronautics field engaged in development and integration of advanced technology products and services. Its main activities rely on modernizing, updating and maintaining Gazelle and Puma fleets. It employs former technicians of the French ALAT (Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre). It last works was the delivery of SA 342s for the Iraqi Air force and the Tunisian Air Force.
Among its upgrades we can find:
- The Centrisep Engine Advanced Protection System (EAPS) which is an improved engine protection replacing the 30 year old EAPS design.
- The New Terminal Information & Tactical Mission Management System.
- The MILDS AN/AAR-60 Airborne Missile Protection System.
- The ATG Lightweight Heliborne Guided Missile.
Some Photos of the French Gazelle (Maybe some of them are future LAF Helicopters):
The Gazelle is a very praised helicopter in the middle eastern region. Syria got officially 42 Gazelle and used them in 1982 war against israeli troops loosing 8 helicopters and destroying more than a hundred Israeli armored vehicles and tanks. The Israeli reused a least one captured Gazelle in the Beqaa valley in the same year along its MD 500 Defender and its AH-1S Tzefa. The Iraqi Air Force operates 6 Gazelle and Egypt operates officially 84.