Opération Barkhane: First Operational Helicopter Refueling
(Source: French air force; issued Nov 6, 2015)
The French air force has carried out its first operational in-flight refueling of a helicopter when a US Marine Corps KC-130 tanker refueled a French AF Caracal in Africa. France currently lacks suitable tankers of its own. (French AF photo)
In late October, a Caracal helicopter belonging to the 1/67 "Pyrénées" squadron detached to N'Djamena (Chad) was refueled in flight by an American C-130 Hercules.

The vastness of the Sahel desert, and the long distances involved, are a major logistical challenge for the airmobile force that is continuously supporting the troops deployed on combat operations on the ground. In-flight refueling of helicopters overcomes much of this constraint.

Operated to transport supplies and maintenance personnel, Caracal now offers the airmobile component the benefit of a longer operational range. This in-flight refueling by an American C-130 opens up new possibilities in terms of planning and conducting operations.

The airmobile component of the Barkhane Force has 17 helicopters, spread over bases in Gao, N'Djamena and Madama. Over 5,000 flight hours have been logged on missions to support and assist the deployment of combat forces throughout the Sahel-Saharan strip.

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