> our title:

French AF Operates Sahel UAV from Cognac

> original title:

Sahel: First Flight of the Harfang UAV Piloted from Cognac

(Source: French air force; issued June 20, 2014)

(Issued in French; unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014, the program team from the military unmanned aircraft operational trials center (EHIC), from UAV squadron 1/33 "Belfort" and from the Sahel-Saharan Band (BSS) drone detachment conducted an experiment to validate the ability of piloting a Harfang drone operating on a foreign deployed theater from a ground station located in France.

Harfang UAV in Sahel skies

This flight is the first and validates the concept called Reachback, or Remote Split Operations (RSO). Lasting about an hour, this experimental flight was carried out under operational conditions to test the handover of the aircraft’s flight control functions, and of its main sensor control, from its advanced location in the BSS region to a ground station located at the unit’s home base in Cognac, nearly 5,000 km away.

At the conclusion of its Cognac-operated operational sortie, control of the UAV was returned to the BSS detachment in Africa which concluded the mission by landing the aircraft.

This new capability offers advantages for the conduct of the operation of UAVs. It makes it possible to have the ability to increase the supply ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) in case of a capability surge in the theater without having to deploy additional personnel overseas. It also maintains an aviation activity in Cognac in the case of technical or weather problems in France. Depending on the required mission bandwidth and the available potential, it could even be possible to control and simultaneously two drones based in the BSS region, one from Cognac and another from the BSS.

The operation went smoothly and gave full satisfaction. A robust and cyber-proof C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) link, whose central hub for the Air Force is the National Air Operation Centre / Joint Forces Air Component, provides the connection between the deployed detachment and metropolitan France, and made it possible to safely carry out this experiment.

This promising new capacity must, however, lead to the development of new thinking on the notion of distance and on its consequences, a phenomenon already faced by our allies. In this context, the air force’s employment doctrine remains to deploy drone pilots closer to the action, so as to guarantee efficiency and responsiveness in responding to support requests.

The technical and operational success once again demonstrates the technical expertise and operational maturity of the French air force’s crews and mechanics.