France concentrated its air assets in central Africa that support the ongoing operations in Mali, Chad and the Central African Republic. The detachment of three Mirage 2000D (DETCHASSE) and the C135 tanker at Bamako Senou airport in Mali joined the forces at N’Djamena airport in Chad on 22 December 2013.
DETCHASSE will continue to support the 2,800 French ground troops of operation Serval in Mali, but moving the air assets to Chad will make logistics easier. N’Djamena is already host to another French Air Force detachment of officially three fighters and a C135 tanker to support the French ops in Chad and Mali.
Recently 6 Rafale fighters were added to support the Operation Sangaris intervention force in the Central African Republic (CAR). Although the French Ministry of Defence did not provide updated information on their involvement at this time.
The original detachment at N’Djamena (La Base Aérienne 172) consisted of two Mirage F1s that flew reconnaissance missions from 17 January 2013. Later six Mirage 2000Ds and a pair of C135s were added. Since June 2013 the French reduced the N’Djamena force to three Mirage 2000D and one C135.
The Armée de l’Air detachment at N’Djamena and temporarily involved air assets (transports) fly 60 to 90 sorties per week in support of operation Serval alone, with a third of them done by air-to-ground tasked fighter jets. Almost half of the sorties are done by transport aircraft such as the C.160 Transall. The remainder of the sorties are for aerial refueling (C135) or reconnaissance.
Meanwhile French Army Gazelles, Pumas and French Air Force Fennecs continue with operation Sangaris inside the Central African Republic, with Bangui-M’poko airport as their main base. The situation there is still fluent, with clashes between communities and ground forces being attack by rebel groups as close as 800 meters from the airport in recent days.
So far, no changes have been reported in the air component, neither in the French air bridge between Gabon and Bangui.
A month ago six Rafale B and C fighters (Rafale B 113-II and Rafale C 118-GH were spotted) flew in for the CAR ops, operating out of N’Djamena in Chad where they were sharing the aerial refueling assets with the Mirage 2000Ds.
Inside the CAR 1,600 French are fighting back rebel forces that have been killing hundreds of civilians. Photos have been released of the French operating together with Burundian forces that are officially there for another mission: Operation Boali.
The parallel more permanent United Nations multinational peacekeeping force (French name Operation Boali) in the Central African Republic got some extra support in mid-December by two US Air Force C-17A Globemaster IIIs.
Amongst other tasks the big American strategic airlifters flew in a Burundian Light Infantry Battalion of 850 soldiers and their equipment from Bujumbura in Burundi to Bangui in the Central African Republic to increase the number of troops quickly in an attempt to control the recent spread of armed violence.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information of Ministère de la Défense and the USARAF