There were seven French tankers in flight last night. Exercise or real operation?

Escadron de chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niémen. BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan. (Image credit: FAF)

Many French C-135s flying at the same time recently.

One of our readers has spotted something quite unusual: as many as 7 French Air Force tankers were flying in southwestern France in the night between Apr. 5 and 6: few minutes after 01.00AM on Wednesday Apr. 6, the reader grabbed a screenshot from Planefinder showing the aerial refuelers trackable online thanks to the emissions of their Mode-S transponders.

Night KC-135

The French Air Force operates a fleet of 11 C-135FRs and 3 KC-135Rs: what seven of such tankers were doing it’s hard to say.

They might be involved in an exercise or supporting a real operation in North Africa: it’s not a secret that the French have conducted several reconnaissance missions as well as air strikes in Libya during the past months and all those long haul sorties were supported by several tankers.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft.

Image credit: Planefinder screenshots.

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.