What do you do when you want an airbase, but there is none. Then you just create it out of sand. The first tactical airlifters have already landed.
That is in short what the French Air Force Corps of Engineers is doing in the Niger desert. The 25th Régiment du Génie de l’Air (25e RGA). In Madama the French are creating new temporary airfields to support Operation Barkhane. That is the combined armed operations in the former French colonies in central Africa that include Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and the Central African Republic to fight armed terrorists and rebel groups in the Sahel / Sahara Region.
On 4 December 2014 a French Air Force (AdlA) CASA (Airbus) CN235 landed on the runway of Madama, after leaving N’Djamena n Chad 3 hours and 40 minutes earlier. A C160 Transall followed on 7 December. Two C160s are already operating at Diori Hamani International Airport of the Niger capital if Niamey and fly in turn to Madama.
The 25e RGA made the Madama runway in little than a month time, from 5 to 30 November. It meant the recreation of the old track of 800 by 500 metres (2400 x 1500 feet). Leveling and reinforcing the ground included adding water – a scarce fluid in the region – to make it more compact to hold airlifters. The second phase of the project, which has just begun, consists of an extension of an additional 500 meter (1500 feet) track to reach a final length of 1800 meters (5400 feet). The Madame airfield will include a ramp, two aircraft parking locations and several helicopter landing zones.
Source: Ministère de la Défense