The French air force is working hand-in-hand or, should I say, wing-to-wing over Libya with the Qatari air force. “This is because we have the same type of aircraft: Mirage 2000-5s,” said Air Force General Jean-Jacques Borel, head of planning and logistics at the French Joint Staff. “We have been flying in mixed Mirage 2000-5 patrols with the Qatari air force,” he told journalists at a special Libya briefing in Paris today. There are four French Mirages 2000-5s and six Qatari ones based at La Sude on the Greek island of Crete.
So far the French have flown 1,600 hours and more than 250 sorties in 191 missions (a mission can involve several sorties) in what the French call Operation Harmattan, thereby assuming between 20 to 25% of the coalition missions just behind the United States. The airforce deploys about 20 aircraft a day: Mirage 2000-Ds and 2000-5s, Rafales, C-135 tankers, E3-F AWACS and C-160 Transalls.
French air power in Operation Harmattan. Photo credit: French defense ministry
Colonel Tierry Burkhard, head of the Joint Staff communications department, added that France has also deployed Task Force 473, led by the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier supported by four frigates (Dupleix, Aconit, Jean Bart, Forbin), one tanker (Meuse) and a nuclear-powered submarine for Operation Harmattan.
The French air-naval group consists of 28 aircraft: four helicopters carried by the frigates (a Panther on each of the Aconit, Frobin and Jean Bart and a Lynx on the Dupleix); six helicopters on the Charles de Gaulle: two Dauphin Pedro, one Alouette 2, and two Air Force Caracals and a Puma.
The aircraft carrier is also carrying 10 navy Rafales from 12F squadron, six modernized Super Etendards from 17F squadron and two E-2C Hawkeyes from 4F squadron.