Tag Archives: Operation Serval

AHF↑Inside: All Transall

All is nice and peaceful in Evreux, a French airbase 90 kilometers west of Paris. A single C-160 Transall, callsign Cujan 30, is flying circuits as part of a currency flight for two pilots. On the ground, other C-160s are being looked after or just quietly parked, doing nothing. But the peacefulness is deceiving; in reality, the two based Armée de l’Air transport squadrons are involved in Operation Serval in Mali and Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic. It’s hard work for the people in Evreux, which is now the epicentre of all French Transall operations. Last but not least, a new airlifter is coming to town.

AHF↑Inside is a series of exclusive insights in the world of aviation.
This time, AIRheads↑Fly editor Elmer van Hest and
AIRheads↑Fly photographer Dennis Spronk
capture French C-160 Transall operations

in Evreux and foresee an Airbus A400 shaped future.
Previous AHF↑Inside features are to be found here.

 

Both C-160 Transall squadrons at Evreux have quite a history behind them. “Our squadron is the most decorated transport squadron in the Armée de l’Air”, says Fréderic Leca, commander of l’ Escadre de Transport (ET) 01.064 ‘Béarn’ squadron. The 85 men and women strong squadron has been decorated in the past for operations in Cambodja and Afghanistan, among other places. Coming June, ‘Béarn’ squadron celebrates 70 years of existence along with sister squadron ET02.064 ‘Anjou’. However, a busy schedule keeps both squadrons occupied for some time to come.

Take off! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Take off! (Image © Dennis Spronk)

EATC
The daily flying schedule is mainly decided upon by European Air Transport Command (EATC), a cooperation between the forces of France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands that puts the combined air transport and air to air refuelling fleet under a joint command. Now, 90 percent of all flights is done by request of EATC. Also, ET01.064 is the lead Transall squadron in the air-to-air refueling role.

A tell tale sign of air to air refuelling. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A tell tale sign of air to air refuelling. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Serval
Since February last year, both Evreux units are involved in Operation Serval in Mali. Initially, up to ten C-160s were based in Mali, but this number has now been reduced to three, with an identical number of crews. Leca: “At the start of Operation Serval, we sent only our most experienced pilots to Mali. But now, all our combat ready pilots go there for a maximum of two months at a time. Our mission in Mali is to perform transport flights, medical flights and tactical assignments.”

Djibouti
Last December, the French government also decided to intervene in the civil war-torn Central African Republic under the name operation Sangaris. But Mali and the Central African Republic are not the only regular destinations for French Transall crews. “I was in Djibouti last week”, continues squadron commander Leca. “We flew from Evreux and after two hours performed air-to-air refueling in the skies over Corsica. We then flew on to Djibouti , where we took part in tactical training missions with helos and fighter aircraft. We flew from unpaved strips typical for operations in Africa.”

Up close and personal: a C-160R Transall. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Up close and personal: a C-160R Transall. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

It’s illustrative of the ever strong C-160 Transall’s capabilities. The French made prototype C-160 first flew on 25 February 1963, with the German made prototype following three months later. A total of 210 aircraft were eventually built by the French-German Transporter Allianz, consisting of French Nord Aviation (later Aérospatiale) and German VFW and HFB (who later both merged into MBB). The Armée de l’Air version was designated C-160F, wich after modifications became C-160R or C-160G ‘Gabriel’ for ELINT ops and C-160H for the airborne communications variant. The total French fleet counted 79 aircraft. Other operators are or were Germany, Turkey, South Africa and Indonesia.

“It’s a fantastic aircraft, well-shaped and still quite up to date”, says Leca. “It’s an easy and forgiving plane to fly and it has a massively strong landing gear, stronger than that of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.” The belly of the Transall can hold either 16.000kg of cargo, up to 93 troops or 62 stretcher patients on medical flights. The Rolls-Royce Tyne Mk 22 turboprop equipped Transall has a range (without air to air refuelling) of 1,800 kilometers while carrying the maximum payload. Empty, the range is an impressive 8,800 kilometers. Defensive countermeasures and newer avionics were added to the Transall over the years.

A hive of Transall activity. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A hive of Transall activity. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Retirement
All in all, 2014 sees not only the celebrations of 70 years of ET01.064 and ET02.064, but also 50 years of flying the C-160, and according to the people at Evreux, at least nine more years are to follow before the final Transall sees retirement. However, the new Airbus A400M strategic airlifer has already been introduced in Orleans, the other major French Air Force transport airbase. In preparation, all 35 or so French C-160s transporters now reside in Evreux. Every year, about four C-160s will be retired. Next up is a C-160R with serial R159, which has a handfull of hours left and is therefore only used for local training flights.

An endangered species, due to the imminent arrival of the Airbus A400.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)
An endangered species, due to the imminent arrival of the Airbus A400. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

While on subject of training, several members of ET01.064 are already being trained on the A400M, of which 50 were ordered by France. ‘Béarn’ squadron will be the second Armée de l’Air squadron to operate the new Airbus airlifter, following in the footsteps of ET 01.061 ‘Touraine’. Leca: “We expect our first squadron crews to be fully qualified in 2016, and in 2017 we will move to Orleans Airbase to fly the A400M from there.”

But, at Evreux the C-160 Transall will be seen for some time to come, flying in support of operations such as Serval or Sangaris, be used for para- or cargo drops, flying as an airborne refuelling platform, practicing short field landings or just flying currency missions such as Cujan 30. So actually appearances do deceive; it’s not all nice and quiet at Evreux. It’s a hive of French C-160 Transall activity.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editors Dennis Spronk & Elmer van Hest

The Transall office. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Transall office. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Watching over the 9,826 feet runway of Evreux. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Another office, this one watching over the 9,826 feet runway of Evreux. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Is it hapy to see us? (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Is it happy to see us? (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Parked at Evreux. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Parked at Evreux. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
20140417_EVREUX_C160_R159_61ZY_COCKPIT_VIEW
Truly inside. The view from a C-160 Transall, looking towards another Transall at the French airbase of Evreux. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Fresh French Mirage 2000s and C-135 to Africa

The three arriving Mirage 2000Ds from Nancy at N'Djamena in March 2014 (Image © EMA / Ministère de la Défense)
The three arriving Mirage 2000Ds from Nancy at N’Djamena in March 2014 (Image © EMA / Ministère de la Défense)

The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) has rotated its para-permanent fighter and tanker detachment at N’Djamena airport in Chad for its ongoing operations in Central and West Africa. Three new Mirage 2000Ds from Nancy and a C-135R from Istres, plus their crews, took over the job on 11 March 2014.

The new guys on the block will fly day and night combat patrol and recon missions in support of the Operation Epervier in Chad an the Central African Republic, and Operation Serval in Mali.

All French air assets in the sub-Sahara region (Chad, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Gabon, Central African Republic) – apart from those deployed with the French army or French special forces – answer to the JFACC AFCO, or … take a breath … the Joint Force Air Component Command – Commandement de la composante air de la force interarmées – de l’Afrique centrale et de l’ouest. The JFACC AFCO’s planning and command is in France at BA (base aérienne) 942 Lyon-Mont-Verdun, while the operations are all centralised at BA172 N’Djamena.

Source: Armée de l’Air

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French Air Force C-135R tanker arriving in Chad on 7 March 2014 (Image © EMA / Ministère de la Défense)
French Air Force C-135R tanker arriving in Chad on 7 March 2014 (Image © EMA / Ministère de la Défense)

First ‘war mission’ for A400M Atlas, in Op Serval

The first A400M in service worldwide. This is the F-RBAA, its sister F-RBAB flew the first 'war mission' (Image © EADS)
The first A400M in service worldwide. This is the F-RBAA, its sister F-RBAB flew the first ‘war mission’ (Image © EADS)

The new Airbus A400M flew its first operational mission on Sunday 29 December 2013, when the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) F-RBAB flew to Bamako-Senou airport in Mali.

After taking off from its home BA123 Orleans-Bricy at 10:30, the A400M made ​​a flight of 6 hour and 40 minutes (click for flightdeck image), carrying 22 tons of materiel for the French operation Serval (Mali and Chad). “We have carefully planned the flight, in order to overcome all eventualities”, said Lt. Col. Creuset, head of the mission to an AdlA reporter. “In particular, we have trained on the Full Flight Simulator, commissioned a few weeks ago at the A400M Training Centre at Orleans-Bricy.”

Since 2 August 2013, the delivery date of the first Atlas to the l’Armée de l’Air, the crew of the Multinational Entry into Service Team (MEST) at Orleans-Bricy airbase have made test and training flights. Currently, two A400M Atlas’s are attached to the MEST. They officially have initial operational capability (IOC) only, a military term for the active ‘try-out’ till full operational capability (FOC) is declared. For the AdlA’s first pair of Atlas’s FOC is expected in late 2014.

The A400M Atlas is meant to replace the current larger tactical freighters of the Armée de l’Air, comprising of the C.160 Transall and the C-130 Hercules. The large cargo haul of the A400M can accommodate the max load of 22 tons as seen here on the first operational mission, against only 6 tonnes for a Transall. Other cargo loads for the Atlas could be 2 Tigre attack helicopters, or 3 armoured vehicles (VAB), or 116 paratroopers, or 66 beds for a medevac mission.

The Ecole de l'aviation légère de l'armée de terre is where future pilots learn to fly the EC665 Tigre attack helicopter, among others. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Although not the cargo of the first operational mission, the A400M can transport two of these Eurocopter Tigre helicopters – into battle if necessary (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Source: Armée de l’Air with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Dennis Spronk

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France reorganises air assets African ops, US supports

A French Mirage 2000D in the skies over central Africa as part of operation Serval  (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
A French Mirage 2000D in the skies over central Africa as part of operation Serval
(Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)

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.

N’Djamena
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.

Operation Sangaris
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.

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

An US Air Force C-17A at Bujumbura, Burundi, while Burundian infantry troops are waiting to be flown to Bangui in the Central African Republic (Image © USAFAR)
An US Air Force C-17A at Bujumbura, Burundi, while Burundian infantry troops are waiting to be flown to Bangui in the Central African Republic (Image © USAFAR)
A French Mirage 2000D being refueld by a C135 in support of operation Serval (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
A French Mirage 2000D being refueld by a C135 in support of operation Serval (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
The flight deck of a French C135 tanker dispatched for Operation Serval  (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
The flight deck of a French C135 tanker dispatched for Operation Serval (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
French Air Force C.160 Transalls fly part of the much needed transport missions in Mali, Chad and Central Africa. Landing site not disclosed. (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
French Air Force C.160 Transalls fly part of the much needed transport missions in Mali, Chad and Central Africa. Landing site not disclosed. (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
An Armée de l'Air Mirage 2000D taking off for another air-to-ground support sortie in central Africa (Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)
An Armée de l’Air Mirage 2000D taking off for another air-to-ground support sortie in central Africa
(Image © EMA/Ministère de la Défense)

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Sweden prepares C-130 for Mali

Swedish Air Force TP 84 with serial 847 at F3 Malmslätt airbase in Linköping. The aircraft normally operates out of F7 Såtenäs. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Swedish Air Force TP 84 with serial 847 at F3 Malmslätt airbase in Linköping. The aircraft normally operates out of F7 Såtenäs. (Image © Marcel Burger)

UPDATE SEPT 14: Sweden cancels Mali C-130

The Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) is preparing one of its eight TP 84 (C-130H) Hercules aircraft for deployment in Mali next month.

The Swedish C-130s are amongst the oldest of the type still in service in Europe, with 32 to 48 years of age. They operate out of F7 Såtenäs base at giant lake Vänern in the southern part of the country. Despite frequent talks about a replacement of the TP 84s, no decision has been made nor does one seem imminent.

The Swedish Armed Forces are, however, one of the largest users of the NATO/EU C-17 strategic transport fleet centrally based at Papa in Hungary to compensate for their lack of long-range air transport capacity.

It’s the decision of the Swedish parliament to send the Flygvapnet C-130 together with 70 personnel to the UN force Minusma, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The Swedish task force is designated FM 01 and will use September to build up its operations just outside the Mali capital of Bamako. Officially the unit will be operational on October 1, serving till Januari 31, 2014.

The Swedish Armed Forces FM 01 will mainly be tasked with transport of materiel and personnel from southern to northern Mali in what officially is called ,,establishment of increased security in the turbulent northern areas”.

A French intervention force pushed back extremist rebels when they started Operation Serval at January 11, 2013. The later joint French-African operations, supported by several EU countries, has now been turned into a United Nations mission.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

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