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French unmanned aircraft protect Bagram Airmen, coalition forces

14th July 2009 - 11:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Airmen of the French unmanned aircraft system operational squadron here are active on patrols in the sky over Afghanistan looking for any movement that could mean danger to friendly troops as they provide coalition and International Security Assistance Force troops with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

"We provide important information to soldiers about what is on the ground ahead of them and around them from a god's eye view," said French air force Lt. Col. Cyril Carcy, the French UAS operational squadron commander.

The UAS squadron stationed at Bagram Airfield demonstrates the French military's commitment to coalition forces and the importance of the mission here.

Several dozen French air force members fly, maintain and monitor the handful of unmanned aircraft deployed here. The French UAS is similar to the U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator, as the French model is an all-weather platform that can loiter over an area all day and night.

The unmanned aircraft features an anti-icing system on the wings and has a fully automated takeoff and landing routine aided by a Global Positioning Satellite system. The unmanned aircraft is referred to by its pilots as a "Harfang," or snowy arctic owl, reinforcing the idea of stealth.

The French UAS squadron brings with it a sense of comfort and calm to its coalition partners.

"The more eyes we have in the air, the better for all of us," said Staff Sgt. William Schroeder of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. Sergeant Schroeder, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and native of Spencer, Iowa, provided security on the flightline near the UAS hangar. "The French contributions to the mission at Bagram are making a huge difference to our safety."

By Tech. Sgt. John Jung 455th Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs - United States Air Force

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