Lebanon May Get Armed Super Tucanos Despite Instability

 - September 8, 2015, 9:44 AM
The first Super Tucano to be assembled in the US for the Light Air Support (LAS) program was rolled out a year ago by SNC. (photo: Embraer)

Six armed Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos may be heading for Lebanon despite continued political instability in that country. In a sale worth $462 million that is reportedly being financed by Saudi Arabia, the aircraft are being offered by the U.S. as a Foreign Military Sale (FMS). This is the second potential transaction in the U.S. Light Air Support (LAS) program, which is providing 20 similar aircraft to Afghanistan. Embraer’s U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was confirmed as the LAS prime contractor after a hotly contested and disputed competition with Beechcraft. 

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said that the six aircraft would be used by Lebanon in the close air support role “to meet present and future challenges posed by internal and border security threats.” The country is struggling to accommodate a huge number of refugees from neighboring Syria, as well as to resolve long-standing tensions between its own Christian, Shia Muslim and Sunni Muslim populations.

A spokesperson for SNC told AIN that the company is not commenting on the current status of the deal. The majority of export agreements approved by DSCA do come to fruition.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) once operated Hawker Hunter and Dassault Mirage combat jets, and a few of the former were returned to service seven years ago. Otherwise, the LAF has been an all-helicopter force, some of them armed, except for a few Cessna 208B Caravans that can fire Hellfire missiles. The Super Tucano sale includes 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons Systems (APKWS) and eight ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing systems, both supplied by BAE Systems North America.