US, France enhance interoperability over the Horn of Africa


US Marine Corps and French Air Force members demonstrated joint capabilities over the Horn of Africa on 24 May, with a US aircraft refuelling a French fighter.

Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR-234) and the 3/11 French Fighter Squadron conducted joint training, enabling both forces to benefit from each other’s unique capabilities, US Africa Command (Africom) said.

“The opportunity to work and train alongside our French partners in Djibouti builds readiness across both forces and enhances interoperability,” said US Army Colonel Jennifer Mykins, the director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). “It shows our shared commitment to stability in the region, ultimately exhibiting the importance of how, as partners, we are stronger together.”

A KC-130J Super Hercules, flown by the Marines, completed aerial refuelling for a French Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet.

In addition to the refuel, the KC-130J transported CJTF-HOA and French leaders to observe the aircraft accomplishing the training.

“It makes me proud of what we do collectively as a team, as partners and allies,” said French Air Force Colonel Olivier Saunier, the commander of the French Air Base in Djibouti. To see the two aircraft – the KC-130 and the Mirage 2000 – working so closely together. Viewing it from the US side, looking at a French aircraft being refuelled is a front row seat to understanding our joint capabilities.”

The French forces do not have a permanent air refuelling asset stationed in Djibouti, so the Mirage pilots are happy to benefit from the capability offered by the US Marine Corps, said Saunier.

“Once we finished the air-to-air refuelling we dropped down to a low-level environment and the French provided an escort for us,” said US Marine Corps Major Jared Hastings, a KC-130J Super Hercules pilot and operations officer assigned to VMGR-234.

The Marines simulated doing an air delivery under the Mirages’ protection and a third Mirage was acting as an aggressor. The KC-130 pilots performed manoeuvres under the French pilots’ discretion.

“This was a great opportunity for the crew to work with foreign officials and build camaraderie,” Hastings said.

“No matter what we do, whether it’s here in East Africa or anywhere else in the world, the US isn’t going to do it alone,” Mykins said. “We’re going to do it as partners and allies. Flying together and conducting joint operations is why we do trainings like this.”