Ambassador Elizabeth Richard spoke today at the Hamat Air Base on the occasion of the delivery of the first two A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Following are Ambassador Richard’s remarks as delivered:
Good afternoon. General Aoun, Air Force Central Commander General Harrigian, General Haykal, and distinguished guests.
It is my sincere pleasure to be here today to mark a significant moment in the evolution of the Lebanese Army as one of the most capable militaries in the region. The acquisition of the A-29 Super Tucano, a new aviation platform featuring advanced technology, will transform an already-strong air power capability that has been a key part of the Lebanese Army’s ability to defend the country.
I am also pleased to honor the recently returned LAF pilots, among the best military professionals in the region. The LAF is recognized in the U.S. for the quality of the officers and soldiers it sends to our training and education programs. Lebanese students routinely finish at the top of their classes, earning ‘honor graduate’ recognition. The recently returned A-29 pilots and maintainers upheld this high LAF standard, and our military is very proud to serve with them. The second group of pilots and maintainers are on their way to Moody (Air Force Base) to start training in the coming weeks, and we look forward to sharing in their success, as well.
The two A-29 Super Tucanos that we are going to see here today are the first of six that will be delivered over the next several months. The A-29’s advanced technology provides the LAF with precision guided munitions and advanced precision strike capability. The transfer to Lebanon of this new capability reinforces our conviction that the LAF is a premier regional fighting force, fully capable of defending Lebanon’s borders.
With the A-29, the LAF will now be able to conduct joint combined arms maneuvers in all conditions, day and night, in a way that greatly reduces the risk of collateral damage and the danger to non-combatants.
As demonstrated in the LAF’s “Dawn of the Hills” operation in August, the Lebanese people can trust the LAF to achieve national strategic objectives. With the acquisition of these A-29 advanced attack aircraft, the Government of Lebanon and the LAF are even more capable of defending Lebanese territory; this is a game-changing acquisition that takes the LAF to the next level of combat capability.
Today is also another reminder of the strong bond between the U.S. and Lebanon. Our military partnership is built upon shared national interests and focuses on three pillars: advancing capabilities through Training and Engagement; the transfer of high tech military equipment to build the Army’s capability; and the Defense Institution Building we are doing together to develop planning, logistical, and sustainment capabilities.
Over the last decade, the U.S. government has invested over $1.5 billion in training and equipment, and we have trained over 32,000 Lebanese troops. We will continue this partnership and support to the Government of Lebanon and to the Army. In fact, we have recently announced another $120 million in Foreign Military Financing, which brings the total investment in the LAF to over $160 million just this year.
I would like to say one very important point here, for all militaries, including our own, the process of planning for, acquiring, and sustaining the capabilities needed to accomplish the mission is a strategic endeavor of great importance.
I would like to take a moment to salute all the former army and Air Force officers here today; some of them are here with us in the front, as well as those who couldn’t be with us. These people understand that real capability is not built through one-time, short fuse equipment donations or purchases. Real capability is built over time, through thoughtful analysis of the threats, and careful planning and design for the Lebanese Army of the future. None of what you see here today, and frankly, none of the great successes of the Dawn of the Hills battle, would have been possible without the dedication and the foresight of all those officers and non-commissioned officers who came before us.
The United States remains committed to a secure, stable, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon. The significant increase in LAF combat capability that this aircraft represents will ensure that the LAF remain a nationally unifying force, a bulwark against extremism and terrorism, and the only real defender of Lebanon.
We are very very proud to be your partners. Thank everyone for being with us today.