BEIRUT – The Lebanese Navy expects to receive seven offshore patrol vessels, four of which are assisted by France and three Protector-class OPVs which are part of US military aid.
“Currently, there is coordination with French shipbuilders to provide Lebanon with four OPV frigates, 65- and 75-[meters] length each, ”Navy Commander Chief Captain Haissam Dannaoui recently told Defense News.
The French ships are not part of this country’s military assistance to Lebanon, he added, but they will be financed through a loan from France in accordance with the Rome 2 conference, a 2018 ministerial meeting in Italy. in support of the Lebanese armed forces.
France is expected to open a credit line of 400 million euros (around 488 million dollars) to allow the Lebanese government to purchase French military equipment.
“Regarding the specifications and the cost of these vessels, we are still negotiating them and hope to reach an agreement soon,” Dannaoui replied on June 3 to questions from Defense News.
In early May, the US Department of Defense informed Lebanon of the delivery scheduled for 2022 of the three Protector-class patrol boats. The ships will help counter regional threats and keep sea crossings open, the US State Department said in a May 21 statement after the first Defense Resources Conference to discuss deepening collaboration in security issues of the two countries.
Overall, the State Department announced $ 120 million in fiscal 2021 for Lebanon from the Foreign Military Funding Program, administered by the Defense Ministry. The amount increased by $ 15 million from the previous year.
“These ships will help protect the Lebanese coast and territorial waters. The length of the Lebanese coast is about 150 km, and the patrol boats will ensure customs protection, prevent smuggling and illegal immigration, and territorial waters against terrorist attacks, ”said Wehbe Katicha, Member of the Lebanese Parliament, a retired army general.
He stressed that the schedule for receiving the vessels will facilitate the securing of Lebanese oil exploration in the Mediterranean.
Retired Lebanese Army General Khalil Helou said the Lebanese Navy effectively only has seven operational patrol boats and their maintenance is very expensive.
“These rapid interception boats are crucial for maritime capabilities as the Lebanese navy will double its capacity after receiving them by increasing its coastal security coverage,” he told Defense News.
“The navy has limited capabilities, hence the persistent need to start up in-house patrol vessel maintenance capabilities and to procure advanced radars to detect threats hundreds of kilometers from the coast in order to have an intervention in real-time and technical intelligence, ”continued Helou. .