Saturday, January 23, 2010

Euro Tech to Revamp Lebanese Gazelle and Puma Gelicopters



Lebanon has signed an agreement with the French company Euro Tech --specialized in revamping and equipping planes -- to revamp 13 Gazelle-type helicopters owned by Lebanon and equip the Puma helicopters granted by the UAE to Lebanon, according to the Central News Agency.The agreement implies revamping the helicopters and training Lebanese pilots on flying the French-manufactured Puma helicopters.

The Puma helicopters are expected to start arriving within the first half of 2010 in two batches, the first includes four helicopters and the second includes six.Earlier media reports said that France was worried that providing the Lebanese army with weapons, including missiles for the Gazelle helicopters, could end up in Hizbullah hands.France's stance was conveyed during a visit by Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Paris.

It came in response to Hariri's request to provide Lebanon with Gazelle missiles since the Lebanese Air Force used up all the rockets against Fatah al-Islam militants during the battle of Nahr el-Bared in 2007.Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Friday cited well-informed sources as saying that French officials and while expressing willingness in principle to provide Lebanon with weapons, French military commanders, however, voiced fear that such missiles could end up in Hizbullah hands and used in war against Israel.

As-Safir newspaper, for its part, said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said that talks tackled "specific issues on the process of modernization of the Lebanese army," without being committed to steps toward arming the Lebanese army, particularly to provide helicopters with missiles.The French position matched the U.S.' stance which was not enthusiastic about the issue of providing the Lebanese Air Force with weapons that could be used against Israel. The ten Puma helicopters that were part of UAE grant to Lebanon were also to be used for light transport and liaison roles and not for combat.

Al-Markaziya news agency

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