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French forces mark three years of Operation Chammal
Rafale. © EMA

French forces mark three years of Operation Chammal

Operation Chammal, the French contribution to US-led military operations against Islamic State (IS), has been under way for three years as of mid-September.

French forces have reached the three-year mark in Operation Chammal, the French contribution to US-led military operations against Islamic State (IS).

According to French forces staff headquarters, French aircraft have performed a total of 7,136 missions over this period, including 1,375 strikes and 2,152 targets neutralised.

On 15th September 2014, a Rafale took off from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a reconnaissance mission over Iraq. This marked the start of military operations by French forces against IS positions in Iraq and Syria. Operation Chammal was officially launched with the first strikes carried out on 19th September.

The operation involves a substantial contribution from airborne assets. During an initial phase, reconnaissance and strike missions and operations in support of Iraqi forces were performed by Rafales permanently based in the UAE. AWACS aircraft and C-135 tankers were also involved.

In December 2014, a forward air base was established in Jordan. Mirage 2000Ds were initially stationed there, followed by Mirage 2000Ns and a French Navy ATL2 maritime patrol aircraft. French Navy and Air Force Rafales are currently deployed there.

Navy Rafales — along with upgraded Super Etendards (SEMs) and Hawkeyes — were first deployed as part of Operation Chammal on the French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in September 2015. This was the first of three carrier battle group deployments to the region, the third of which marked the transition to the French Navy’s “all-Rafale” fleet. The French Air Force, meanwhile, has permanently deployed assets in Jordan and the UAE.

In September 2014, strikes by coalition forces halted the advance of IS forces in Iraq. Allied air force operations have since played an important role in the liberation of Iraq and the retreat of IS forces in Iraq and Syria. Operation Chammal was extended to Syria in September 2015.

Operations by French forces continue today — between 13th and 19th September, French aircraft flew 41 missions, carrying out six strikes, with eight targets neutralised.

Operation Chammal also includes training missions for the Iraqi Army and deployment of artillery in support of Iraqi forces. The French Navy has also deployed frigates to the Gulf on several occasions to perform air defence missions.

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