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First French combat drop since 1978, apparently.


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#1 Manic Moran

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 2042 PM

From time to time, rumblings come around of French military involvement in some obscure place in Africa. About the only reason it hit the news was that they bombed an airfield a few months ago.

Well, apparently last month they had "France's first major airborne para drop into a war zone since 19 May 1978, when the Foreign Legion jumped on Kolwezi, Zaire, to free European hostages from rebel hands," into the town of Biaro, Central African Republic. Apparently 150 French troops remained in the town afterwards, so we're talking more than an airplane's worth here.

So, who knows the details? Units? Aircraft used?

NTM
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#2 DB

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 0923 AM

From time to time, rumblings come around of French military involvement in some obscure place in Africa. About the only reason it hit the news was that they bombed an airfield a few months ago.

Well, apparently last month they had "France's first major airborne para drop into a war zone since 19 May 1978, when the Foreign Legion jumped on Kolwezi, Zaire, to free European hostages from rebel hands," into the town of Biaro, Central African Republic. Apparently 150 French troops remained in the town afterwards, so we're talking more than an airplane's worth here.

So, who knows the details? Units? Aircraft used?

NTM

Dunno if it's a typo, Nick, but the town seems to be called Birao, not Biaro. There's a fair bit about fighting in the region on the web if you search for Birao...

Reports from a couple of weeks ago suggest that the town has effectively ceased to exist, with most residents now "displaced persons" and 70% plus of the buildings destroyed.

Very little about FR involvement - just hints about ferry flights to bring CAR government troops into the airport to help kick the "rebels" out.

Note also suggestions that the rebels are basing out of Darfur. A spreading cesspool if ever there was one.

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#3 DemolitionMan

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 0941 AM

Well, apparently last month they had "France's first major airborne para drop into a war zone since 19 May 1978, when the Foreign Legion jumped on Kolwezi, Zaire, to free European hostages from rebel hands," into the town of Biaro, Central African Republic. Apparently 150 French troops remained in the town afterwards, so we're talking more than an airplane's worth here.


Looks like they´ve forgotten about the Brazzaville jump in 1997.
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#4 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1034 AM

Probably an administrative move conducted by parachute insertion (for whatever reason that was deemed most appropriate) similar to the delivery of US forces via parachute into Kurdistan in 2003 during OIF. If they'd gone into a contested DZ, there would proably have been some news of it somewhere.
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#5 Zaraguina

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1034 AM

From various open sources it seems :

- Saturday 3rd march, rebels attacked Birao where some french soldiers where for instruction (GCP from 17è RGP ?).
- The following day, rebel attacked with more force. Mirage F1 provide CAS against rebels.
- In the evening, some special forces soldiers (GCP from 3è RPIMa) are dropped from altitude near the combat zone.
- Tuesday, paratroopers (3è RPIMa ?) drop in the area near the airport.
- No rebels at airport, Transall landing, 3è RPIMa soldiers disembark.

GCP = Groupement des Commandos Parachutistes => Special Ops unit made of elements of the 11th Paratrooper Brigade.
17è RGP = 17e Régiment de Génie Parachutiste => 17th Paratrooper Engineer Regiment.
3è RPIMa = 3e Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine => 3rd Marine infantry Paratrooper Regiment.

17è RGP and 3è RPIMa are both from the 11th Paratrooper Brigade.
I am not sure I translated units correctly.

Here a statement from defense ministry in french.

Edited by Zaraguina, 09 April 2007 - 1036 AM.

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#6 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1133 AM

Probably the same reason the indonesians parachuted into Aceh, it looks cool and 'elite' paratroopers get to buoy their morale by ''Doin' their thang''
Plus the french like cool shit like this...
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#7 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1219 PM

Probably the same reason the indonesians parachuted into Aceh, it looks cool and 'elite' paratroopers get to buoy their morale by ''Doin' their thang''
Plus the french like cool shit like this...


Sounds more like they didn't trust that the airport would be secure until they had their own guys there and fixed wing aircraft were the only way to introduce troops quickly into the area.
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#8 Guest_JamesG123_*

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1240 PM

A heliborne air assault would have been more effective and "safer". With such small units, if the airport had been crawling with rebels, a paradrop would have been very vulnerable to being destroyed peice meal until it got organized on the ground.

They probably just did it to update the record books and to give military forums something to talk about...
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#9 Zaraguina

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1335 PM

To talk about what we know ! ;)
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#10 Mk 1

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1407 PM

A heliborne air assault would have been more effective and "safer". With such small units, if the airport had been crawling with rebels, a paradrop would have been very vulnerable to being destroyed peice meal until it got organized on the ground.

They probably just did it to update the record books and to give military forums something to talk about...

The presumption there being that:
1 ) There was sufficient rotary lift capacity in the region ...
2 ) There were facilities within rotary lift range of the LZ

Doing rotary-wing lift over long (trans-continental, or worse yet inter-continental) ranges is notably more complex than doing fixed-wing lift.

IF the French happened to have a squadron of medium lift helos within a couple hundred miles, I could see your conclusion that it was for show. But if the transport had to come from France (or some other far-away base), whether it came loaded with the troopers or not, I expect that a fixed-wing solution would have been notably faster and less complicated to organize.

And putting a stick or two on the ground by 'chutes before landing a bunch of transport planes makes pretty good sense, provided you have that hard-edged "leave 'em behind if you have to" decision matrix.

While an individual gun crew may be ready to fire at a moment's notice, larger rebel and militia formations in Africa seem to take time to form-up into any sort of cohesive fighting force. A competent light infantry force, even if only in squad-sized units, seems to have a significant edge in immediate combat efficiency. During the time it takes for a militia formation to organize and gain cohesion, well trained troops can do much to hinder the forming-up of the militia, or can evade if necessary.

I expect that the French took into account a variety of scenarios involving rebel forces being in posession of, or proximity to, the airport. The dropping troops were probably ready to 1 ) establish a control perimeter to secure the landing field if un-occupied, 2 ) fight against dis-organized resistance for control of the airport if occupied, or 3 ) evade to some other location if resistance was stronger than expected.

This page also seems to have been present in the Soviet's airborne ops book. Conduct a hot-drop onto the airfield, so that the majority of transports can land their troops and equipment. Isn't that how the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan started?

Anyone care to comment on the US 82nd's playbook for this kind of op?

-Mark 1
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#11 ABNredleg

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1410 PM

A heliborne air assault would have been more effective and "safer". With such small units, if the airport had been crawling with rebels, a paradrop would have been very vulnerable to being destroyed peice meal until it got organized on the ground.

They probably just did it to update the record books and to give military forums something to talk about...


Africa is big and the operational range of a fully loaded helicopter is pretty short. The French routinely dropped paras (ie. dozens of jumps) in Indo-China due to lack of roads and helicopters, and found it to be a very effective way to quickly move units long distances. As to it being more dangerous, they had pathfinders on the ground and therefore knew where to place their DZs.

You're right about choppers being a safer bet, but you have to have the aircraft and they have to have the range and payload. I'm sure the US planners would have preferred to use choppers to insert the 173rd into northern Iraq during OIF but that wasn't feasible. The 173rd's jump reminded me in many ways of how the French used airborne troops in Indo-China, which was to drop your troops into blocking positions in conjuction with ground operations.
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#12 Guest_aevans_*

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1428 PM

The 173rd's jump reminded me in many ways of how the French used airborne troops in Indo-China, which was to drop your troops into blocking positions in conjuction with ground operations.


<MrPicky>
In DRAWD terms, I'd have to say that that was a more of a reinforcing mission than a defense or delay (which is what "blocking position" suggests).
</MrPicky>

Aside from that, I second what everyone else has had to say about the limitations of rotary wing lift. In the African environment, aerial insertion generally means parachutes or fixed wing airlanding.

Edited by aevans, 09 April 2007 - 1430 PM.

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#13 DemolitionMan

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1605 PM

This page also seems to have been present in the Soviet's airborne ops book. Conduct a hot-drop onto the airfield, so that the majority of transports can land their troops and equipment. Isn't that how the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan started?

-Mark 1


All I heard so far was that the Soviets landed on Kabul Airport but without dropping troopers to secure it first.
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#14 Jim Martin

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1735 PM

Anyone care to comment on the US 82nd's playbook for this kind of op?

-Mark 1


If the airfield needed securing, probably would have airdropped Rangers, followed up by airlanding of forces.
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#15 Jim Martin

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1737 PM

All I heard so far was that the Soviets landed on Kabul Airport but without dropping troopers to secure it first.


Coup de main using aircraft masquerading as commercial traffic. There was no resistance, as the Afghans didn't expect the aircraft to disgorge invading troops.
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#16 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 1824 PM

Coup de main using aircraft masquerading as commercial traffic. There was no resistance, as the Afghans didn't expect the aircraft to disgorge invading troops.


Didn't expect an imminent invasion full-stop.
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#17 Junior FO

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 0510 AM

And putting a stick or two on the ground by 'chutes before landing a bunch of transport planes makes pretty good sense, provided you have that hard-edged "leave 'em behind if you have to" decision matrix.

While an individual gun crew may be ready to fire at a moment's notice, larger rebel and militia formations in Africa seem to take time to form-up into any sort of cohesive fighting force. A competent light infantry force, even if only in squad-sized units, seems to have a significant edge in immediate combat efficiency. During the time it takes for a militia formation to organize and gain cohesion, well trained troops can do much to hinder the forming-up of the militia, or can evade if necessary.


Indeed. In the bad old days of the SWA fracas, squad sized SADF foot patrols in the middle of nowhere wouldn't hesitate to initiate a meeting engagement with company sized SWAPO/ANC infiltration colums. The experience being that if you were aggressive enough they would retreat. Probably not much different further north.
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#18 Pachy

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 0553 AM

From what I've read, Birao was out of range to all French helos in the region. I think there are Pumas permanently based in N'Djamena.
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#19 LeoTanker

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 1033 AM

Probably the same reason the indonesians parachuted into Aceh, it looks cool and 'elite' paratroopers get to buoy their morale by ''Doin' their thang''
Plus the french like cool shit like this...


Swedish special forces (SSG) carried out several joint operations with French paras in Kongo a coupple of years ago*, and found them quite professonal. So I doubt the French government has sent them on this new mision just becauce "the french like cool shit"...

* as a part of the EU military detachement based in Kongo
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#20 Sardaukar

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 1039 AM

Indeed. In the bad old days of the SWA fracas, squad sized SADF foot patrols in the middle of nowhere wouldn't hesitate to initiate a meeting engagement with company sized SWAPO/ANC infiltration colums. The experience being that if you were aggressive enough they would retreat. Probably not much different further north.


Indeed. And SADF (and Rhodesians too) would even parachute reinforcements in if necessary. Fast way to reinforce...even faster than helicopters, always in short supply.
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