All Along the Watchtower – Lebanon

The enduring value of combat engineering in the fight against ISIS in Lebanon, guard towers on the border

A story from the Telegraph shows the value of combat engineering.

The Telegraph led with;

Secret British role in halting Isil ‘massacre’ in Lebanon

Clandestine British squad worked at speed to coordinate huge effort to build 12 towers along Syrian border to prevent town from falling to Isil forces

I think the Telegraph is getting more like the Sun every day!

The UK, through the FCO and DFiD has supported the Lebanese government and people for some time and this is just one of those areas in which we can have a reasonably effective impact for a very reasonable cost.

In March 2013, the Lebanon Daily Start reported;

The Daily Star has learned that four towers will be constructed on the volatile border initially, and if the scheme is successful further ones could be erected elsewhere along the frontier.

But the Army will have to convince potentially suspicious and skeptical local residents – some of whom actively support Syrian rebels – as well as the Syrian army, that the observation towers do not pose a threat to either side but are there to reinforce the Army’s presence in the north and help it better monitor the border.

The four towers are located in hills or promontories in Mqaibleh allowing views across Wadi Khaled to the north, Shadra, Menjez and Abboudieh, the latter three overlooking the Kabir River valley that marks the border. A fifth tower will be erected at the Hamat air base and army training facility.

Troops will undergo a two-week training course on the tower at Hamat before deploying along the border.

Each tower will be constructed from six stacked shipping containers with the lower levels surrounded by Hesco blast barriers. The observation room at the top of the approximately 10-meter high tower will be protected by bulletproof glass and surrounded by anti-missile fencing. A bomb shelter constructed from sandbags and Hesco barriers at the foot of the tower will provide additional protection. Surveillance of the border will be conducted by sophisticated remote control long-range cameras equipped with night vision allowing clear resolution images up to 20 km away. All video footage is recorded and may be monitored from an operations room on the ground floor of the tower.

The project began last year when Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi requested assistance from the British Embassy to help the army better control the northern border.

The British suggested to Kahwagi that that the Lebanese Army build fortified observation towers modeled on the British army’s “Sangars,” which have been used in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In December last year, the UK announced a £10m package of measures to help the Lebanese Land Border Regiments.

British Advisory Team Lebanon

Hardly a secret, the December 2013 announcement described the measures in more detail;

A joint LAF-UK project team briefed the Minister on the ongoing construction of 12 border watchtowers, and demonstrated to the Minister a range of new equipment being delivered to the Land Border Regiments, including vehicles, body armour, radios, HESCO bastion, and long range observation cameras. The team also briefed the Minister on the training programme that accompanies the equipment, and the work of the Joint Project Implementation Team to integrate these new capabilities into the Land Border Regiments’ operations.

Minister Robertson then inspected 70 of the 164 Land Rovers being donated to the LAF for border patrolling, and presented the keys for the vehicles to Brigadier General Manuel Karejian, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Equipment.

Following his visit the Minister said: ‘ I am very pleased to see how the UK is supporting the LAF in response to the LAF Capability Development Plan. It is a great honour to handover to the LAF this first batch of 70 Land Rovers. These vehicles will provide the Land Border Regiments with much needed off-road mobility. I know that another 94 will arrive in Lebanon before the end of the year, along with secure VHF radios, 1,500 sets of body armour to protect the troops, and fixed and mobile observation towers to protect and reassure border communities. This is the UK’s largest project with the LAF, and we are proud to be able to support Lebanon’s stability in these very uncertain times’.

Brigadier General Maroun Hitti, Deputy Chief of Staff Plans of the Lebanese Armed Forces said: ‘The mission of the Land Border Regiments is to defend and control the land borders, to facilitate the legitimate movement of goods and people, and to reassure and protect border communities. The LAF works hand in hand with other security agencies to reinforce state authority in a challenging and complex environment. The equipment and training being provided by the UK gives us the key capabilities we require. What is important now is to deploy these capabilities to full effect in the field as quickly as possible.’

Secret and clandestine, not so sure.

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 01

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 02

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 03

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 04

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 05

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 06

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Land Rovers - Lebanon 07

 

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On the 14th of October this year, the Minister for the Middle East (Tobias Ellwood) updated parliament on the UK’s support for the Lebanese Armed Forces in a written statement to Parliament;

As part of this commitment, since 2012, the UK has been assisting the LAF to establish and mentor the LAF Land Border Regiments (LBRs). The mission of the LBRs is to observe, identify, deter and interdict activities by illegal armed actors in the near border areas, in line with agreed international human rights standards. Between 2012 and 2014 around £14m of Conflict Pool funds was allocated to enhance the capabilities of 1 and 2 LBRs. These efforts have resulted in the construction of 12 Protected Border Observation Posts along 140km of the border, and the deployment of the two LBRs.

Recent ISIL actions in the Arsal area, and the threat that ISIL poses to UK interests, now make it imperative that the LAF expands the presence of the LBRs southwards, as part of an overall strategy to bring the entire eastern border with Syria back under the authority of the State. The Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces has recently authorised the establishment of 3LBR to cover a further 70km of the border south from Arsal to Tfail. He has requested UK assistance consistent with that already provided to 1 and 2 LBRs.

The Departmental Minute laid today therefore sets out our intention to gift a package of £3,596,844 of equipment to support the establishment of the 3rd Land Border Regiment of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The proposed gift will be funded by the Government’s Conflict Pool Programme and will consist of the following UK sourced equipment:

800 sets of Personal Protective Equipment, including body armour, helmets, gloves, belts, first aid kits, camouflage clothing and protective glasses: £793,600

14 Land Rover Defenders and additional equipment to enable them to operate in difficult terrain: £408,244

5 Protected Border Observation Posts and 6 Mobile Observation Platforms, with observation aids and ballistic protection for fixed 3LBR positions: £1,395,000

Radio equipment to allow the command elements of 3LBR to link back to LAF HQ in Beirut: £1,000,000

Alongside the gift, the UK is expanding its existing package of training and mentoring with additional operational and engineering expertise worth £1,402,197.

Still not sure about being secretive and clandestine, the Telegraph might want to look up UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and UNIFIL.

Much of the drive behind this has been the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, this typifies the kind of quiet but effective diplomacy and engagement with the security agenda that should be the model for other locations.

Oh look, an infographic

UK in Lebanon

Global Radio Datacommunications provided the communications equipment.

Lebanon Radio
GRC Lebanon

Anyway, the story is about combat engineering and ISTAR connectivity, a few images of the watch towers, guard towers or Sangars on the Lebanon/Syria border

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Observation tower Minjes

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Lebanon Sangar 01

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Lebanon Sangar 02

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Tower 10 02

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Tower 10 01

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The watch towers or sangars are straight out of the Northern Ireland and Afghanistan text book, ISO containers and HESCO Bastion continuing their multi date world tour.

I wrote about Sangars and watch towers a while ago, specifically the Expeditionary Elevated Sangar that was developed for Afghanistan making use of Cuplock scaffolding and Hesco.

This equipment has enduring value,

If you look at image 1 and 3 in the tabs above you might see some similarity (windows and lifting lugs) with these.

Super Sangar Removal Newton Hamilton Northern Ireland
Super Sangar Removal Newton Hamilton Northern Ireland

And this

Northern Ireland Sangar
Northern Ireland Sangar

And a few years later, ready for Afghanistan

Super Sangar
A complete range of Improved Army Operational equipment as used in Afghanistan and Iraq was demonstrated and displayed at Salisbury plain Wiltshire. Particular emphasis is placed protection as industry and the military work constantly together to update and counter evolving threats faced by the modern day Soldier. Pictured here is the Armoured Super Sanger with the Enforcer Remote Weapons System

Another marvel of British military engineering

From Northern Ireland to Afghanistan to Lebanon

Lebanon Sangar
Lebanon Sangar

 

More information;

UK Government Lebanon documents page

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Jonathan Foreman
Jonathan Foreman
December 2, 2014 4:05 pm

The towers and engineering are impressive but what the Telegraph and others have missed is that the Towers are in a Hezbollah-controlled part of Lebanon, that the LAF has been massively penetrated by Hezbollah, and that this programme pretty much means that the UK is assisting Hezbollah fight Syrian rebel forces….

DomS
DomS
December 2, 2014 9:43 pm

To be fair Jonathan these are defensive positions so as military aid goes they’re a reasonably safe bet. Not so much chance of being redirected I mean, for other unintended purposes.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 2, 2014 11:37 pm

Good spot TD, with the heritage going back to at least N’orn Iron and probably much further.

Happy days in Golf 40 above Forkhill in the late 80s. Also memories of sheltering my patrol overnight under it on the same tour, and some utter twunt in the Scots Guards having an ND with an M79 grenade which embedded itself inside the berm less than ten yards away, having not quite spun enough times to arm itself. At least five years since I’d done the Dems course, and we all had to get outside the berm while I blew it up. Put a bit too much juice into the dem, which blew out the A/C unit just above it.