Almost unbelievable but true: a French Tiger helicopter lands on a Libyan beach to pick up a Free Libya flag

When I first was asked if I had news about the episode I thought of a hoax. I could not believe that any NATO chopper involved in Operation Unified Protector would ever dare to land on a beach with the risk to be hit by MANPADS, RPG, guns presumed to be smuggled from Gaddafi’s depots, unless it was compelled to do so because of a failure. I was wrong.

Look at the following video. One of the two French Tiger helicopters (without any evident escort or cover) lands on a Libyan beach to pick up a flag from a young girl.

It’s at least a curious episode and I can’t find a reasonable explaination for it.

That kind of helicopter operated off the Mistral ship until it was relieved by Tonnerre on Sept. 18. According to the information made available by the French MoD at the beginning of September the helicopters on board Mistral had flown about 280 combat sorties claiming the destruction of no less but 500 targets.

The French helicopters (including Gazelle and Puma) flew their sorties mainly at night and often came under fire from a wide range of weapons: from light and heavy machine guns, to ZSU-23-4s and ZU-23s,  to MANPADs. None was damaged. Still, this doesn’t mean they can’t be hit and landing on a beach without any escort or top cover can be extremely dangerous.

Another episode of a marketing/propaganda campaign?

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 1) it never occurred to anybody that this was probably a mission to recover an important document or an item (laptop, HDD, USB key etc…) that couldn’t be retrieved rapidly and securely otherwise. The landing site has been identified as the Military Academy in Tripoli. And yes, we bend the rules, that how you win wars.

    2) Please : it’s “court-martialed”, not “marshall”. Martial comes from “Mars” and means “War”, ie a court of war, a military court. A marshal(l) is a rank or function originating from a old Frankish word *marhskalk” which grew in reputation with time. Two completely different words, similar pronounciation.

    • Thanks for the interesting comment.
      Sure, it could have been a mission to recover something, even if I tend to believe that critical missions are better done at night.
      That’s why it remains an out of the ordinary type of mission with (appearantly) no cover.
      Thanks for the spelling explaination on court-martialed.

  2. I don’t know that one could have produced a shakier video if one had tried! Holy un-watchable!

    Is there a stabilized version of this video out there?

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