Every day, the Rafales operating from the French deployed air base (BAP) in the Levant take off to carry out their missions as part of Operation Chammal. On Wednesday 17 July, after several hours of flying over hostile territory, a Rafale was refueled for the first time by a German Air Force A400M.
This was a historical first for both aircraft, illustrating in an unprecedented way the cooperation between European members of the Counter-Daesch coalition in the Levant.
Integrated into the core of the Inherent Resolve operation, this European tanker, like the French C-135FR, supports coalition aircraft in the fight against Daesh. It is placed under the operational command of the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).
The Rafales received three tonnes of fuel for the first time from the German A400M, which allowed them to complete their mission which required over five hours in flight. Given the size of the theater, combat aircraft must rely on in-flight refueling to stay on-station and accomplish their mission. In-flight refueling capability is essential for all air operations in this theater.
Like the French, Italian and American tankers, the German tanker is equipped with two flexible under-wing nacelles to refuel one or two fighters at the same time. It thus guarantees all coalition aircraft the responsiveness, strategic reach and endurance necessary for air defense or support missions of the Syrian democratic forces in Syria and the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. The A400M can carry up to 50 tonnes of fuel.
Since the beginning of 2019, BAP jet fighters in the Levant have already carried out 450 sorties and over 1,000 air refueling operations from the various tankers of the coalition, which have proved necessary to ensure the success of the aerial operations of French fighters.