BEIRUT — Canadian company Lortie Aviation is entering negotiations to buy five of Lebanon’s Hawker Hunter fighter jets after the Ministry of National Defense held three auctions for the aircraft, Defense News has learned.
The ministry authorized the Lebanese Armed Forces to issue an agreement of consent with the Canadian firm for the sale of the five Hawker Hunters and spare parts. The parties involved will now negotiate a price. The deal is expected to be worth about $1 million.
Lortie Aviation was the only bidder for the Hawker Hunters in the third auction that was held Aug. 12. Three Sikorsky S-61 helicopters also up for sale received no bids and might now be sold as spare parts.
The first auction held by the ministry took place May 11, but the number of interested parties failed to meet government requirements, leading to a second auction on July 12 that had the same result.
“Public biddings are subject to the Public Accounting Law. Hence, when after setting a date, at least two companies must submit for competition, which was not the case with the Lebanese Air Force, hence two more biddings were held,” a source with knowledge of the sales process told Defense News.
Defense News previously reported that two other companies expressed interest in the Hawker Hunters but it appears they did not submit bids: British firm Hawker Hunter Aviation and U.S.-based company Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (a subsidiary of Textron Systems).
The commander of Lebanon’s Air Force, Brig. Gen. Ziad Haikal, recently told Defense News that Lortie Aviation had been in discussions with the service to procure the jets following a visit by company officials.
“After their procurement, the jets will be used as enemy fighters in training with the U.S. Air Force. The Hawker Hunter is a powerful aircraft and very maneuverable, and it fits this type of training,” he said.
The Hawker Hunters have been nonoperational since 2010. The country is keeping two of the aircraft type for refurbishment and preservation in a local museum.
Haikal told Defense News in an earlier interview that the sale is part of the service’s effort to reallocate its assets and restructure its fleets to maximize the utility of available resources.
“The Hawker Hunter aircraft and Sikorsky helicopters have been nonoperational for many years, in the absence of financial resources to maintain them. This public auction will be the first step to restructure the training fleet and firefighting capabilities,” he said.
The Lebanese Air Force previously showed interest in the Pakistani Super Mushshak trainers, but it never received a response from Pakistani authorities. Haikal said the Air Force might now buy Cessna 172 or similar trainers equipped with the glass avionic suite Garmin G1000 to ensure interoperability with the Cessna Caravan 208 already fielded by the service.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is discussing the sale of Sikorsky S-61 helos as spare parts with several companies, including Canadian company Rotor Maxx, the source told Defense News.
Lebanon’s military was initially eyeing a contract with American firm Air Tractor for an aircraft similar to the AT-802 that can support the county’s firefighting capabilities as well as supply spare parts and pilot and technician training, after selling the S-61 helos. But if the returns in the spare parts sale are not enough to support that goal, the service plans to buy other firefighting capabilities like Bambi Buckets or Fireflex firefighter packs.
Agnes Helou is a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.