The French intervention force in the Central African Republic (CAR) executing Operation Sangaris has a permanent air bridge at its disposal that operates between Libreville in Gabon and Bangui-M’poko in the CAR.
The aircraft are a Lockheed C-130 from l’Escadron de Transport 02.061 Franche Comté marked 61-PD and a CASA/EADS/Airbus CN235M-200 of l’Escadron 03.062 Ventoux from French Air Force Base BA110. They are in theatre since 6 December 2013, when they moved a paratrooper company of the 6th Marine Infantry Battalion (6eBIMa).
The French Ministry of Defence confirmed the existing air bridge on 11 December 2013. Apart from the two transport aircraft the French Air Force supports Sangaris with six Rafale fighters and a C-135 tanker flying from N’Djamena in Chad, plus two AS555 Fennec (5534/WJ an WD) light utility and scout helicopters. The French Army Aviation has fielded at least 4 Puma transport helicopters (DDU, DCL, DBO, unknown markings), plus 2 Gazelles light utility and scout helicopters.
Airlift of supplies and material into the African theatre from Europe was supported again by a British Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster III flight on 11 December 2013, the second time since the French launched operation Sangaris in Central Africa. Like the first time, the RAF C-17 flew vehicles from Istres Airbase near Marseilles to Bangui-M’Poko.
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. The air bridge from Gabon has officially been added to taskforce Épervier – the French armed forces expeditionary unit that runs French ground operations and protect French interests in Chad (Operation Épervier) and Mali (Operation Serval) as well.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information of Ministère de la Défense and the RAF.
Piet Luiken (Scramble Editor) contributed to this article.