11 December 2013 Flt Lt Durrant - RAF
The RAF effort to carry French military equipment to the Central African Republic (CAR) is ramping up as tensions rise in the strife-torn country.
As troop-carrying vehicles were loaded into the hold of a C17 transport aircraft this morning at an airbase near Marseilles the French army had suffered its first fatalities at the hands of the impoverished state’s violent militias.
The mood was a sombre one among the French drivers as they edged their vehicles into the C17 at Istres – two of their colleagues, paratroopers, have recently been killed near Bangui airport, the C17’s destination.
The unique abilities of the C17 Globemaster, flown by 99 Squadron of RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, make it the ideal aircraft for this type of strategic airlift. Five armoured vehicles have already been delivered by the RAF to the French, who entered CAR following a UN resolution.
They are there to support an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force which will be transported into the country from neighbouring Burundi by the US Air Force.
The C17 captain, Squadron Leader David Blakemore, said: “It’s great to work so closely with the French, especially on such an important peacekeeping mission such as this.”
A small contingent of RAF Police and gunners from 63 Squadron of the RAF Regiment are also on the 3,500-mile flight to Bangui, CAR’s capital, from Brize Norton.
The RAF’s contribution to the French peacekeeping effort is part of the Lancaster House 2010 security co-operation treaty signed between the two nations. This resulted in RAF assistance during France’s campaign earlier this year against Islamic rebels in Mali.