The US Air Force (USAF) has begun training Lebanese student pilots on the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprop, the service announced on 24 March.
The first pilot trainee assigned to the USAF's 81st Fighter Squadron (FS) flew his maiden sortie at Moody Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia on 22 March.
"[Since training began] this was the first opportunity that we have had to get the first Lebanese airborne. They've been doing ground training, learning the procedures, patterns, simulator, and emergency procedures," the trainee's 81st FS instructor pilot said.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Hill, the 81st FS commander, 12 Lebanese pilots and 20 maintainers will be put through the same training pipeline as that conducted for the Afghan Air Force.
The sale of six Super Tucanos to Lebanon was contracted on 30 October 2015, and should be complete by 31 July 2019. It is believed these aircraft are being financed by Saudi Arabia.
The original US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) notification for the sale noted that the aircraft will be armed with 70 mm rockets fitted with BAE Systems' Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) guidance kit and protected by AN/AAR-60(V)2 missile launch detection systems and AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers. The Super Tucano is also equipped with two 12.7 mm (.50 calibre) machine guns.
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