On July 31, 2020, the expeditionary air base (EAB) at Niamey welcomed a new detachment, that of the C-130J aircraft. The aircraft came to relieve the iconic Transall C160 within the operational transport group (GTO).
After more than 50 years of good and loyal service in foreign operations, Transall has bowed out and will no longer be permanently based in Niger. At the end of a ceremony chaired by Colonel Malard, commander of the Niamey EAB, the personnel bid a final “au revoir” to the Transall, which will be withdrawn from the Air Force fleet on the horizon. 2023.
At Niamey, a new team and a new plane have taken their place, even if for some, the location is not unknown. Commander Romain, captain of the C-130J, is a ‘veteran’ of the Transall. "It is with emotion and pride that I take over as the commander of the GTO Niamey. I've done secondments here with the Transall before, but today it's a new adventure that begins. The C-130J arrived in France in December 2017 and we are at a new stage in its ramp-up, with this permanent detachment in Niamey. We can't wait to show the capabilities of our aircraft in the Sahelo-Saharan Band (BSS).”
Thus, the C-130J will carry out the missions previously carried out by the Transall but will also offer new capabilities for the air operations of the Barkhane force. “For the time being, we will concentrate on air transport (freight and passengers), for example between two aeronautical platforms such as Niamey and Gao, and “airporting,” that is to say with landing on rough terrain such as laterite, like Tessalit or Ménaka.
“Added to this is the airdrop of paratroopers at low altitude with automatic opening, or from high altitude for group infiltrations. And, finally, the dropping of cargo to supply the troops on the ground with food, ammunition or fuel,” explains Commander Romain. The C-130J is also capable of refueling vehicles on the ground as well as in-flight refueling of helicopters, a capability it has already proved in France and which it will be able to use in BSS operations.
The GTO provides daily transport and airdrop missions from Niamey in order to serve all the BSS sites.
In 2019, intra-theater air links transported 4,120 tonnes of freight and 27,500 people.
Led by the French armies, in partnership with the G5 Sahel countries, Operation Barkhane was launched on August 1, 2014. It is based on a strategic approach based on a logic of partnership with the main countries of the Sahel-Saharan strip ( BSS): Burkina-Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad. It brings together around 5,100 soldiers whose mission is to fight against armed terrorist groups and to support the armed forces of partner countries so that they can take this threat into account.