West Africa - SahelAviation

Le Drian in Mali for New Year's Eve. A visit full of meaning…

Gao base (credit: French Ministry of Defense / DICOD)
Gao base (credit: French Ministry of Defense / DICOD)

(BRUSSELS2) The French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is traveling to Mali this evening for a visit which will last several days and has several objectives.

First, it is a question of paying tribute to the troops present on site. JY Le Drian will spend the new year in Gao. At the height of the operation, 4500 French soldiers were involved, 7 died in operation (*) and around twenty were injured. Secondly, this is to celebrate the first anniversary of Operation Serval in the country. Triggered on January 11, 2013 (see below). Thirdly, the Minister should announce a French repositioning in the country as in the whole region (read on the Club).  Finally, and this is not the most negligible aspect, it is about celebrating the first “operational” mission of the new European transport plane, the Airbus A400M, which has just entered the army of French air very recently (read: The A400M in service).

First operational mission for the A400M

The Airbus A400M “MSN7”, renamed “city of Orléans” in honor of its sponsor city, will in fact carry out its first operational mission by transporting, from Orléans air base 123, equipment to Bamako. Flight duration: 7 hours. Load transported: 22 tonnes. To carry out the same load, it would take 3 C-130 Hercules (9 tonnes per plane) and almost 10 hours of travel (9h30). Then he will have a less heavy mission but just as politically symbolic, since he will take charge of the Minister and the official delegation (including journalists) to carry out a tactical flight from Bamako to Gao.

Arrival of the A400M near Bamako airport in Mali (credit: Air Force)
Arrival of the A400M near Bamako airport in Mali (credit: air force)

220 tonnes of ammunition seized

For the Minister, the operations carried out jointly with the Malian armed forces or in coordination with the African forces of AFISMA, then MINUSMA, have « neutralized several hundred terrorists and weakened their logistical potential ». The assessment drawn up by DICOD is impressive: around 160 buildings and logistics depots and 120 vehicles belonging to terrorist groups were destroyed. 220 tons of ammunition were seized (of which 30 tons were returned to the Malian armed forces). In detail, this gives: 1300 grenades, 1000 rockets, 7700 shells, 500 mortars, 200 mines and improvised explosive devices, 20 bombs. Without forgetting 12 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, normally used as nitrogen fertilizer but which can mainly be used as an explosive. Some weapons were also seized: 100 rifles, 150 machine guns, 30 rockets, 20 mortars, 20 cannons and 3 SA7 missiles. The “human” assessment is not detailed. But some sources mention several hundred “rebels” killed (at least half a thousand).

30% of air missions carried out by the allies

To carry out this operation, a real logistical gymkhana was necessary, whether by sea (9 tonnes and 170 people transported), by land (more than 500 million kilometers traveled by the logisticians) or by road. strategic air transport (3 tonnes transported and 18.500 rotations) or by tactical, intra-theater movements (480 tonnes of cargo, 3 people transported). These are “more than 500 missions, 15% of which were carried out by the allies (Belgians, Germans, British, Danes, etc.). This required siphoning off one or two tankers with more than 600 million liters of aeronautical fuel and 1 million liters of land fuel consumed.

Packages for soldiers

The ministers took the opportunity to distribute a festive basket to the French soldiers engaged in the theater of operation in Mali. made in France " to the soldiers present for New Year's Eve. The Minister for Agri-Food, Guillaume GAROT, made the trip for the occasion. Inside, jars of foie gras provided by the Interprofessional Foie Gras Committee (CIFOG), toasts for foie gras and waffles from Jacquet-Brossard (Limagrain Group), jams and fruit jellies from Andros ( Pierrot Gourmand and Bonne Maman), fruit juices and sodas from UNIJUS (Pepsico and Pampryl), red wine from Castel… In passing, we learn that there are 3000 packages that have been prepared, or a little more than the 2500 soldiers officially present.

  • (*) Let us cite them: Battalion Chief Damien Boiteux (4th RHFS special forces helicopter regiment, January 11, 2013), Warrant Officer Harold Vormezeele (2nd REP foreign parachute regiment, February 19, 2013), master corporal Cédric Charenton (1st RCP parachute hunter regiment, March 2, 2013), quartermaster Wilfried Pingaud (68th African artillery regiment, March 6, 2013), master corporal Alexandre Van Doren (1st RIMa Marine Infantry Regiment, March 16, 2013), Sergeant Stéphane Duval (1st RPIMa Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, April 29, 2013), Quartermaster Marc Martin-Vallet (515th RT Train Regiment , July 30, 2013).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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