French Forces Rejoin Operation Enduring Freedom
By Staff Sgt. Melissa Koskovich, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 9, 2006 The French Navy Carrier Air Wing returned to the coalition fight last week, flying their first missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom since November.
"Our main mission while we are here is to support troops on the ground and contribute to reconnaissance efforts as well," said Lt. Col. Gerard Brunel, commander of the French detachment at the Combined Air Operations Center. It is Central Command Air Forces policy not to disclose the specific location of its forward headquarters or the CAOC.
The French also hope to strengthen cooperation with countries in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region and reinforce their operational capacity, he added.
"We welcome the return of our French allies to the CAOC," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, deputy Combined Force Air Component commander. "With continuing rotations of airpower provided by our allies from around the world, the effort to support our troops on the ground is a truly a coalition operation."
Peck added that the French delegation at the CAOC plays an important role in the mission, coordinating the French airpower contribution, which includes close-air support, tactical reconnaissance and aerial refueling. "They ensure their assets are used effectively to support Operation Enduring Freedom," he said.
During its last tour in Southwest Asia, the French air force flew more than 400 sorties, logging nearly 2,000 flying hours. These included about 720 hours flying the M-2000 Mirage, 550 hours in the F-1 Mirage and 680 C-135 SR tanker hours.
The French air force also enhanced the coalition combat capability during its last tour by performing six successful air strikes using laser-guided bombs against enemy forces.
French officials said that though the political choices of France and the United States may sometimes be different, there has always been a good understanding at the technical level between the two nations.
"This is not the first time we have joined the fight; the French and Americans have worked together for many years to fight international terrorism, and we will continue in the future," Brunel said. "We are proud to be a part of the coalition effort in Afghanistan."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Melissa Koskovich is assigned to U.S. Central Command Air Forces Forward Public Affairs.)