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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Des Grands Avions svp

After the revolting fate suffered by French special forces soldiers captured by the Taliban in Afghan a few years back, it is unsurprising that their current colleagues do not wish to hold back against the Al Q factions in Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. But the hostage rescue mission by commandos from the DGSE mounted in recent days in Somalia appears sadly to have been botched, with some deaths and some missing. The assault helicopters landed 3 kms from the target and the locals warned the bad guys about the offloading soldiers, and therefore they had enough warning. I believe the body count was c.100 bad guys against 12 good guys. One of whom was Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, a Gazelle pilot belonging to the 4 RHFS (SF Avn Rgt), who was mortally wounded by small arms fire while attacking a terrorist column on Friday. RIP. Mirage 2000s operating from Chad continue to do the bombing stuff. Franch and Malian ground forces are helped by a battalion sent by each of Burkina Faso, Niger and Sénégal.


In one sense I am surprised that Call me Dave has come to the aid of M Hollande, on one of the latter’s first military escapades. 99 Sqn RAF was tasked to send 2 C17 Strategic transports to help the French get their kit into theatre. This is a significant loan since we only have eight of these Boeing jewels. What it does underline is the yawning gap in the capability of the Armée de l’Air. The French transport fleet has for some time been skewed to the tiddlers of the air transport world: its cornerstone is the Transall C160, of which it has 39. But these only carry 16000 kgs, and over a range of only 1000 nm. It has 24 of the even smaller CASA 235, which can transport less than 6000kgs. Additionally it has 14 C-130 Hercules – I believe early marks – with a payload of probably 20,000 kgs, and a range of 2000 nm. (I have never seen one). The 2 C17s left Brize on Sunday for the FAF base at Evreux in Normandy. This is the FAF’s base for SF aviation, so one might conclude we are helping the French ship more SF assets out there.


France has 50 Airbus A400M strategic transports on order. These will shift 37,000 kgs – but the programme is well delayed, and they are unlikely to enter operational service with the French before next year.


So if a French commander needs to shift a lot of materiel (including vehicles)  - now - quickly over long distances, he needs a C17 (which carries 77,500 kgs over up to 2400 nm).  Let us hope that Hollande remembers this assistance the next time he wants to shaft us over EU matters.


On the other hand mutual aid, and interoperability with the French seems the inevitable way forward. Unfortunately the Rosbifs are going to need the help of the Frogs when it comes to equipping and operating our rather expensive aircraft carriers when they eventually come on stream.

Update 15/1/13: The Canadians are sending one C17 to the cause.

16/1/13 it is not just the RAF that are having tech problems, the Canadian C17 also suffered a delayed departure for Mali. Boeing are going through a bad spell what with batteries on their Dreamliners catching fire rather frequently at the moment.


Fr Transall
Brize C17

Photos from top to bottom:

French Transall

RAF C17 -  1 of the 2 sent out


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