A first batch of five VAB HOT anti-tank vehicles was handed over to the Lebanese Army by France on 30 May to begin a second life in the service of the fight against Daesh. This donation confirms the reinforcement of French military support to Lebanon, backed up by an exceptional €15M aid package announced in April 2016 by president at the time, François Hollande.
Lebanon will receive a total of 15 VAB HOTs, spare parts, HOT anti-tank missiles and medium calibre ammunition as well as crew training. A choice that corresponds to “a need for long range direct fire capability, particularly to better deal with terrorist groups in the Ersal region“, according to Arnaud Pescheux, charge d’affaires of the French Embassy in Lebanon. The border town of Ersal has become a major target for the terrorists who are trying to convert this region into a platform for smuggling arms and bringing fighters into and out of Syria. In addition to the HOT VABs, Lebanon has also received 10 dogs trained to detect improvised explosive devices “and they will also strengthen [the] capacity to fight terrorism,” said Pescheux.
Designed in the late 1970s, the VAB HOT is an anti-tank version of the VAB family of vehicles. It is fitted with an anti-tank missile launcher turret, possibly accompanied by a 7.62mm calibre AN F1 gun mounted on a turret. Four of the 12 HOT missiles, which have a range of 4,000 metres, are ready to fire, especially at night thanks to the MEPHIRA camera.
Apart from donating equipment, Lebanese military cooperation also involves training for Lebanese army personnel. Nearly 80 Lebanese trainees are sent each year to train in French military schools.