About 90 airplanes and nine helicopters, and more than 2,000 Brazilian and foreign military personnel are currently taking part to Cruzex 2013, South America’s largest military exercise this year.
Hosted by the airbases of Natal and Recife, in the north of Brazil, the international drills organized by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) is attended by the air forces of Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. It could have been even larger if Argentina would not drop out at last moment.
Cruzex will last till Nov. 15, providing an opportunity for the participating air forces to train in modern war scenario.
A distinctive feature of Cruzex drills is the media flight arranged by FAB to give photographers the opportunity to shoot a large formation made of several aircraft types taking part in the exercise from the cargo door of a C-130.
Although it’s in French language, the following video released by the French MoD is quite interesting as it shows the FAF C-135FR refueling ops from N’Djamena, Chad.
The French tanker are quite similar to the U.S. KC-135s. Still, the refueling boom is attached to a basket since FAF planes use the hose and drogue system and get the fuel through a probe.
The footage lets you see the Mirage 2000s and Rafale Air supporting Operation Serval being refueled on their way to the target area in northern Mali.
As happened in Libya, the Mali Air War is suffering from tanker shortage. Even if only a few combat planes are involved in the air strikes, the French Air Force is not equipped with a tanker force capable to sustain a limited amount of attack sorties.
That’s why the U.S. has dispatched some of its KC-135 from RAF Mildenhall and other nations have offered aerial refuelers.
Operation Serval: this is the name of the French operation in Mali.
Launched on Jan. 11, 2013, at the request of the Malian authorities and the United Nations, the French operation kicked off with a raid performed by attack helicopters to stop the progression of a column of jihadist elements enroute to Konna, near Mopti in the center of the country.
According to the French MoD, that on Jan. 12 released the first official information about the French activities in Africa, this first action was led by Gazelle helicopters with the 4ème Régiment d’Hélicoptères des Forces spéciales (RHFS), armed with HOT missiles and 20 mm caliber guns and allowed the destruction of four vehicles and led to the withdrawal of the column.
Image credit: French MoD
During the raid, one of the choppers was hit and a French pilot was deadly wounded by small arms fire and died at a local hospital.
However, the air campaign to support the Malian army did not only involve light attack choppers.
On the night between January 11 and 12, four Mirage 2000D jets of the Epervier group, conducted air strikes in the north of the country. The attack planes took off from N’Djamena, in Chad, and were supported by two tankers C135.
Currently two Mirage F1 CRs, six Mirage 2000Ds, three C135 tankers, one C130 and one C160 Transall are deployed to N’Djamena. Rafale multirole fighters are on heightened alert status and ready to deploy, should the need arise. Tigre helicopters are being deployed to Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso.
About 200 soldiers belonging to the ground component of the Epervier have reached the Malian capital, Bamako, by means of C-13o Hercules and C-160 Transall airlifters.
As a consequence of the air campaign in Mali, France has upped the terror threat level for its citizens worldwide.
On May 2, a Greenpeace activist flying a paraglider, entered the forbidden airspace over the Le Bugey nuclear power plant, between Lyon and Geneva, and dropped a smoke device on the reactor containment structure to demonstrate the vulnerability of a nuclear facility.
Two days later, a paraglider approaching the restricted airspace that protects the nuclear plant of St Alban, Isere, in sotheast France, caused the alert scramble of a French Air Force Mirage 2000 and a helicoper (most probably on a heightened alert status as a consequence of the Greenpeace action) launched to intercept it.
The “slow mover” was spotted by a brigade of police motorcyclist, who triggered the alert as the paraglider was about to violate the forbidden airspace of 5,000 meters radius around the plant.
As the paraglider was flying at more than 1,500 meters from the facility, the pilot realized his error and turned back to Reventin-Vaugris, his departure airfield.
As soon as he landed (most probably before any aircraft could reach him), the pilot, that claimed not to belong to any “anti-nuclear movement”, was met by police officers arrived aboard another helicopter.