On board cash-strapped Lebanese army fundraising helicopter flights


Seen from the sky, Lebanon looks like a tourist paradise.

At street level, fuel lines around the block, blackouts, growing poverty and outbursts of anger point to a country falling apart, 20 months into an economic crisis that feuding elites are not not willing to resolve.

From above, the azure Mediterranean gives way to the cedar-covered mountains, then to the Bekaa Valley, where the Romans built their largest temples and vineyards line the cannabis farms in the birthplace of the Agriculture.

Much of this tiny country can be seen on a 15-minute sightseeing helicopter flight, which the Lebanese Armed Forces began offering from several air bases this week as a fundraising measure as it leads an “economic war” for survival.

This is an unusual military strategy, selling rides on helicopters usually used for training missions, and the Commander of the Lebanese Air Force, General Zaid Haikel, acknowledged this when The Telegraph carried out one of the first flights.

“It’s an economic war”

“It is an economic war that we are waging, and we are using all the tools at our disposal to fight this irregular war,” he said on Thursday, speaking at Rayak air base in the Bekaa valley. .

Lebanon’s currency crisis wiped out 90 percent of the pound’s value, leaving the military to struggle to feed its troops and maintain its equipment.

At an international aid conference earlier this month, 20 governments pledged to help keep the military afloat with donations of food, fuel, medicine and spare parts, but Gen. Haikel insists on the fact that the Lebanese army is not only a matter of charity.

“We don’t just lie down and ask for help, we are fighting to survive,” he said.

His plan to increase revenues is just another part of the military’s civic duty, he said, nothing that military helicopters are already regularly deployed for firefighting, medical evacuations and medical evacuations. agricultural spraying.


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