The French Air Force has achieved a milestone after a US Marine Corps (USAMC) KC-130 tanker refuelled its Caracal aircraft, marking the first operational in-flight refuelling of the French helicopter.
The latest development saw a USMC C-130 Hercules transport aircraft refuelling a Caracal EC725 helicopter, which belonged to the 1/67 'Pyrénées' squadron, in Africa.
According to French AF, the vastness of the Sahel desert and the long distances are becoming logistical challenges for the airmobile force that is supporting the troops deployed on combat operations on the ground.
However, in-flight refuelling of helicopters overcomes much of these limitations.
The latest in-flight refuelling milestone is expected to open up new possibilities in terms of planning and conducting operations, AF added.
Airbus Helicopters' EC725 is a long-range tactical transport helicopter designed for troop transport, casualty evacuation, combat search and rescue, maritime surveillance, humanitarian support, medical evacuation and shipborne missions.
The helicopter is equipped with a modern digital cockpit, a four-axis autopilot, and a Fenestron shrouded tail rotor landings and takeoffs in confined landing sites and during loading/unloading on the ground while the rotor is turning.
The Barkhane Force's airmobile component currently operates a total of 17 helicopters that are based in Gao, N'Djamena and Madama.
The mission aimed at supporting the deployment of combat forces throughout the Sahel-Saharan strip has completed more than 5,000 flight hours so far.
Image: A USMC C-130 Hercules aircraft refuels a French Caracal helicopter in Africa. Photo: courtesy of Ministry of Defense 2015.