The French will soon need the Italians in the Sahel

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The Paris air forces suffer from the lack of heavy helicopters, which is why the French departments of the Operation Barkhane, in the Sahel, are forced to rely on the support of CH-47Fs Chinook British and AW-101 Merlin Danesi (opening photo).

In particular, the two Danish helicopters carry out an average of 6/7 missions per week, as reported by the Ministry of Defense in Copenhagen. As for the three Chinook the British, on the other hand, have accumulated a total of over 2.000 flight hours over the past two years.

Recall that these carriers carry out different types of missions, as well as transport soldiers and materials: thanks to their sophisticated on-board sensors, such as the Wescam MX-15 optronic imaging system, the Danish AW-101s can monitor the ground below during missions. flight. While the Chinooks are capable of carrying 2.000 liters of fuel inside flexible containers, thus allowing to set up refueling points for combat helicopters Tigre supplied to the forces of Barkhane.

Apparently Paris will soon no longer be able to count on these capabilities. In fact, if the use of the three CH-47F Chinook were extended from London, their use could be shared between Barkhane and MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), soon strengthened by the arrival of 250 of His Majesty's soldiers.

UK is "on the verge of announcing a reinforcement of 250 people within the MINUSMA for long-distance patrols and foresees that the three Chinooks present in Mali will from now on be assigned 50% to this mission". As French deputies Jacques Marilossian and Charles de la Verpillière recently declared, in a report that takes stock of the Lancaster House agreements, signed ten years ago.

In addition, Paris will have to find a way to replace the two AW-101s Merlin Danes, whose mission will soon end. No doubt Copenhagen could consider extending its commitment, however the Danish defense suffers from serious budget shortages.

To make up for any possible abandonments, the French troops focus heavily on Italian flight assets. The Italian participation, with its special forces, in the Operation Takuba (which will integrate the Operation Barkhane) in the Sahel is now near (already financed by Parliament). Our operators will also be supported by medium and heavy helicopters, with flight arrangements provided by the 3rd REOS of the Army of Viterbo (on UH-90 and CH-47F), by the 1st helicopter group of the Italian Navy (on SH-101 ) and from the 9th wing of the Italian Air Force (on HH-101 equipped with an in-flight refueling probe).

The new mission is particularly insidious, on the other hand the French deputy Jean-Jacques Ferrara was extremely clear: "it is time for our European partners to agree to share the blood price".

Photo: Royal Danish Air Force / MoD UK