On April 3, 2016, for the first time, the French Navy Atlantique2 (ATL2) supporting the Chemmal Force, used its Wescam camera to illuminate a target on the ground, thereby allowing a coalition aircraft to engage an armed terrorist group. During this sortie, which took place in the region of Hit, Iraq, the ATL2 for the first time designated a ground target for another aircraft, a capability which it had not previously used in combat, and which adds a new feather to its cap.
While carrying put a reconnaissance flight over Hit, the aircraft’s crew spotted a group of Daech fighters that were engaging Iraqi forces as they advanced towards the Euphrates River. Moving rapidly, the terrorists consistently sought to hide from aerial observation.
The Forward Air Controller-Airborne (FCC-A) aboard the ATL2 forwarded the target information to a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) on the ground. Coalition fighters on combat air patrol in the area received this information into account and moved closer to the area.
A dialogue was then established between the JTAC and the ATL2 so as to track and monitor the terrorists. Once they had reached the Euphrates, the terrorists regrouped under cover, where only the ATL2 could manage to maintain visual contact. At the request of the JTAC, the ATL2 designated the target with its laser beam, allowing an allied fighter to drop a laser-guided bomb which hit the target.
A French Navy ATL2 has been operating from a forward-deployed air base in Jordan since February 2016 as part of France’s continuing efforts to defeat the Daesch / ISIL terrorist group in the Levant.
Launched on September 19, 2014, Operation Chammal comprises 1,000 troops. It aims, at the request of the Iraqi government and in coordination with France's allies in the region, to provide air support in Iraq and Syria in the fight against Daech, hitting the terrorist organization from the air.
The French contribution to these coalition operations comprises fourteen Air Force combat aircraft (six Rafale, eight Mirage 2000D), an ATL2 maritime patrol / ISR aircraft, intelligence and command and control (C2) detachments and a logistic echelon. It also includes military personnel deployed in Baghdad to train and advise Iraqi troops.