France is deploying a sizeable number of aircraft, including transport and combat helicopters, to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of its intervention force there, which aims to improve the fragile humanitarian situation in the country. Other nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, are also contributing aircraft to support CAR operations.
Seven French military helicopters have been deployed to the Central African Republic after French President Francois Hollande authorised Operation Sangaris to maintain order in the beleaguered country.
On Thursday the French military secured the airport in the capital Bangui in anticipation of incoming flights. Two French Army Aviation Corps SA 342 Gazelles were on Friday joined by three Army SA 330Ba Pumas that were originally stationed in Gabon, reports Air Forces Daily. These elements were bolstered by the arrival of two French Air Force AS555AN Fennecs, which arrived in Bangui aboard an An-124 on Sunday.
In addition, the French Air Force is using six Rafale fighter jets deployed to N’Djamena, Chad, for reconnaissance missions over the CAR using Reco NG pods. The jets have been spotted flying over Bangui and Bossangoa, reports Air Forces Daily. Some reports suggest two newly acquired General Atomics MQ-9A Reapers could be used over the CAR. They will most likely be based in Niger’s capital Niamey.
Meanwhile, other nations have been contributing assets. The US Air Force has deployed two C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters to fly 850 troops from Burundi to the CAR, following a French request.
“[French minister of defence Yves] Le Drian requested limited assistance from the United States military to support this international effort. In the near term, France has requested airlift support to enable African forces to deploy promptly to prevent the further spread of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic. In response to this request, Secretary Hagel has directed US Africom to begin transporting forces from Burundi to the Central African Republic, in co-ordination with France,” said Pentagon Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog.
Yesterday UK Foreign Secretary William Hauge said the Royal Air Force was contributing a C-17 to help move French equipment to the CAR. Three flights will take place this month, with the first one due to land in the CAR “shortly”. The RAF airlifts will include armoured personnel carriers loaded at the French Air Force base at Istres-Le Tube near Marseilles.
The UK Ministry of Defence said that the UK’s contribution came after the December 5 decision by the United Nations Security Council to authorise the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to CAR, and the deployment of French forces to give assistance.
Hague said the C-17 contribution comes on top of £10 million in UK aid announced on 30 November. Having already contributed £5 million in July, the United Kingdom is now one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the people of CAR, he said.
More than 400 000 people have been displaced since Seleka rebels – many of them Muslims from neighboring Chad and Sudan – seized power in March, unleashing a wave of rapes, massacres and looting on the majority Christian population.
Some 400 people have died since Thursday in the capital Bangui alone.
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday mandated France to do whatever necessary to protect Central African Republic’s 4.6 million people and restore government authority while an African Union peacekeeping mission slowly deploys.
France has moved 1 600 troops to its former colony, many of whom were airlifted via French Air Force A340 aircraft.
The forces from Burundi will help bolster the contingent from the African Union, due to be increased to 6 000 from about 3 500.