As happened in 2011, in the weeks that preceded the kick off of Operation Odyssey Dawn against Gaddafi, airborne surveillance platforms are amassing around Syria.
According to Air Cosmos, two French Navy Atlantique II aircraft were moved to RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus, where they have joined the two E-3D AWACS and the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets that London has detached in the Eastern Mediterranean sea to provide the air defense of the small island located just 200 km off the Syrian coasts.
The Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft are SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) assets that have been extensively used in Mali, during Operation Serval operating from Dakar, in Senegal. They will be used to eavesdrop Syrian communications and signals to have a better understanding of what is happening in the country.
U-2S aside, the U.S. has moved some Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and Special Ops C-130s to Souda Bay, Crete. The aircraft were monitored by aircraft spotters as they flew eastbound via Lajes, Azores. It’s not clear whether they deployed to the Mediterranean Sea following the Syrian crisis or they were involved in a preplanned overseas deployment.
For sure they could be useful to perform Combat SAR and Personnel Recovery missions in case of attack with some manned aircraft. As B-2s or B-52 bombers.
In the meanwhile USS Nimitz is heading towards the Red Sea.
By the way, on Sept. 2, the WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer monitored as it flew eastward on Aug. 28, was heard flying back to the U.S. via the Mediterranean Sea and Malta. Was it used to collect evidence of the Syrian chemical attack?
Image credit: French MoD
Way to go France, I’m surprised.
The UK MoD have denied reports that French ISR aircraft are operating or have even been deployed to UK bases in Cyprus. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23961195 and http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/uk-rules-out-joining-military-action-against-syria-113090401194_1.html