The French armed forces have increased their air activity of Operation Sangaris, which is the French intervention in the Central African Republic.
“Parallel to ground activities, Rafale fighters of the Armée de l’Aire conducted combat air reconnaissance patrols over Bangui and Bossangoa, including in the morning of the 9 December”, according to an official press release from the French Ministry of Defence. “Mission was to determine if there were any threats opposing the ground forces.” A total number of six Rafale operate curently out of N’Djamena in neighbouring Chad.
Meanwhile the “aerial activity has more density” as the French put it. Apart from at least four (possibly more) Pumas and two (possibly more) Gazelles, two AS555 Fennec light utility and scout helicopters of the French Air Force have been added.
Where exactly the Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre choppers are flying has not been disclosed, but their main operating base is Bangui-M’Poko airport. The French Ministry did release some footage of a DDU marked Puma somewhere in the Central African Republic. On 9 December 2013 the French Sangaris force had its first casualties amongst the 1,200 troops deployed. Two marine paratroopers of 8e RPIMa were killed while being engaged by rebel forces on an undisclosed location.
The French intervention force will eventually be 1,600 troops strong and is backed by the United Nations. It has a mandate to last well into 2014.
Source: Ministère de la Défense with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger