ABU DHABI — Military aid provided by Saudi Arabia and the United States has boosted the firepower of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) by about 30 to 40 percent in recent years, analysts said.

Over the past eight years Lebanon has received US military aid worth $1 billion, according to David Hale, the US ambassador to Lebanon.

"Almost every month orders are arriving to the Lebanese Armed Forces," said Riad Kahwaji, CEO of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

"The firepower of the LAF has at least multiplied by 30 to 40 percent, they have for the first time doubled their arsenal of howitzer guns and have been deploying their stand-off weapons more effectively in the battlefield, like the Hellfires and TOW II missiles," he added,

According to an article authored in November for the Middle East Institute by Dr. Basem Shabb, a member of the Lebanese parliamentary Committee for National Defense and Interior, the LAF has quietly been developing a credible force over the past few years with US assistance.

"The training and materials geared toward counterterrorism, internal security and border control were not seen by Hezbollah as a threat to its military arsenal of rockets and long-range missiles. As it turns out, the LAF was better prepared for the Syrian crisis and its spillover into Lebanon," he said.

"The elite units of the LAF, notably the rangers, commandos and Navy seals, were specifically trained in urban warfare and in confronting irregular forces and counterinsurgency. US military equipment, while not relevant in a context of confrontation with Israel, is well suited to countering irregular forces and border control."

The delivery of Cessna aircraft gave the LAF advanced surveillance and reconnaissance abilities as well as pinpoint firepower with Hellfire missiles, he said, while more conventional weapons such as M198 howitzers as well as M60A3 and M48A5 tanks offer accurate and continuous firepower.

Kahwaji echoed Shabb's statement that the LAF has now achieved better C4ISR capabilities with the Cessna Caravans and that the Lebanese military is looking into buying a third aircraft.

Lebanon has also recently received a military grant from Saudi Arabia worth $3 billion for French weapons. French support culminated in the delivery of Milan launcher systems last April.

"Next month, the Army is awaiting Caesar self-propelled guns and in the near future a shipment of Cougar helicopters, as well as offshore patrol vessels, from France," Kahwaji told Defense News earlier.

Brig. Gen. Jean Kahwagi, commander of the LAF, said in April when they received the first batch of weapons from the French in Beirut that "the military aid Lebanon received will enhance the Lebanese Army and increase its readiness and strength to confront terrorism and defend Lebanon's borders.

"These weapons will greatly improve [the Army's] situation."

Another $1 billion Saudi grant delivered in December last year has facilitated the purchase last month of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft worth $462 million.

On July 3, a Chinese delivery of unknown weapons arrived at the shores of Beirut, according to Kahwaji.

Although there is no official confirmation of how the weapons were purchased, Kahwaji said the Chinese weapons may be a direct purchase from the Saudi grant.

"The second $1 billion grant was not specified to be from one source like the earlier one and Saudi Arabia has been controlling the flow of money," he said.

Most likely Most probable thing is that "the shipment would be for spare parts and ammunition for the LAF's T55 tanks as well as their Russian-made 130mm artillery rockets and 122mm Katyusha rockets that the Chinese produce," he said.

Email: amustafa@defensenews.com

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