The French Air Force has deployed an upgraded KC-135RG for an ongoing anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in the Republic of Niger.
The aircraft will replace the C135 detachment which comprises of one aircraft and a crew of twenty people in the Western African country.
The move is expected to provide enhanced operational capabilities while ensuring compliance with the current requirements of air traffic regulations.
Boeing-built KC-135 Stratotankers are currently in service with the air forces of the US, France, Turkey and Singapore.
The KC-135R aircraft features CFM-56 engines, which burn up to 25% less fuel and provide greater thrust than previously fitted engines. The efficiency of the engines enables the aircraft to offload 50% more fuel on a medium-radius, 1,725-mile refuelling mission.
The aircraft is capable of refuelling probe / drogue and boom / receptacle aircraft on a single mission and to refuel two probe / drogue aircraft simultaneously.
The French Air Force's 1950's -built C135 underwent a modernisation programme in 2014 to improve cockpit avionics, as well as all communications and navigation equipment.
Currently, the European nation deploys Dassault-built Mirage 2000 aircraft besides the KC-135RG aircraft.
Operation Barkhane, which involves 3,500 French military personnel, is targeted at insurgent groups based in five countries, and former French colonies including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Image: A Mirage 2000D strike fighter is refuelled by the upgraded KC-135RG tankers. Photo: courtesy of French Air Force.