Aviation Historian 23
J.Moralez, V.Militian - Heavy duty: Lebanon's DIY "Hueybombers"
By some margin the most used aircraft in the Lebanese Air Force, the Bell UH-1H has proved to be a versatile and enduring asset used in numerous roles - including that of bomber, as demonstrated in this photograph of a UH-1H carrying a full load of two 500lb bombs on pylons and one 400kg (880lb) bomb on its belly.
A Hueybomber heads off on another mission with a pair of 500lb Mk 82 GP bombs attached to its homemade pylons. The LAF continues to operate the UH-1H, although its acquisition of six Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano turboprop ground-attack aircraft means it is unlikely that the Hueybombers will be called into action again.
In early August 2007, UH-1H serial L-1005 was fitted with the cabin bomb-mounting apparatus and tested with various arrangements of ballast to investigate the system’s viability. It is seen here with a ballast cradle on its starboard mounting. On August 9, this aircraft completed the first operational Hueybomber mission of the conflict.
Huey serial L-1004 has its Lycoming T53 turboshaft engine run up in preparation for a bombing mission, armed with a single 400kg (880lb) general purpose (GP) bomb on its belly mounting. Owing to minimal ground clearance when carrying the bomb, and for easier fitting, the helicopter is positioned on a pair of steel supports.
The ingenious arrangement within the cabin comprised a pair of oxygen bottles also taken from the Hunters, attached to an armoured plate (from an M113 armoured personnel carrier) which was bolted to the floor. The bottles fed compressed air to the release piston, the silver starboard example of which is seen here top left.
Of more slender form than its larger 400kg counterpart, the Mk 82 unguided low-drag GP "dumb bomb" is one of the most widely-used in the world and was dropped in huge numbers during the Gulf War of 1991. The Mk 82s used during the siege of Nahr al-Bared were modified by LAF armourers, and a number were produced locally.
A pair of UH-1Hs at Kleyate Air Force Base north of Tripoli in northern Lebanon in 2007. The nearest has been converted into a “Hueybomber” with the help of parts taken from various other Lebanese Air Force aircraft, including its then non-airworthy Hunter FGA.70s and its Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters.
The “DIY” bomb-rack fitted to the LAF Hueys incorporated a weapons pylon from a Hunter (the harness marked with a warning triangle) attached by means of a missile attachment arm from a Gazelle, which in turn was connected to a propshaft (taken from a Navy vessel), which was attached to an armoured plate on the cabin floor.
One of the Hueybombers sits on a makeshift concrete platform at Kleyate while being prepared for its next bombing mission, this time carrying a single 400kg belly-mounted bomb. The bombing missions were mostly made during the day, but more than 4 1/2 hr of combat mission flight time was accrued at night during the 2007 conflict.