PARIS — The French Air Force is looking to recruit more mechanics to maintain fighter jets and also urgently acquiring bombs and equipment to support a high rate of operational use, air chief Gen. André Lanata said Tuesday.
Urgent operating requirements have been posted for new munitions and satellite communications, he told defense journalists on March 8, daily Le Monde reported.
The new munitions are BLU 111 and 126 low-collateral-damage bombs, which will be adapted and certified for the Rafale and Mirage strike fighters, a French Air Force spokesman said. The bombs have been ordered without a guidance kit.
The service is counting on orders placed for new equipment, particularly four C-130J transports, with missiles for the special forces, the report said.
France would order Griffin missiles to arm two of the C-130Js, a defense official said in May. The first two Hercules are due for delivery between the end of 2017 and early 2018, the procurement office said Feb. 1.
More laser-targeting pods for the Rafale and Mirage and a satellite communications system for the former have also been ordered, the spokesman said.
A priority on personnel is to recruit mechanics for the fighter jets, the report said.
The service will recruit some 450 mechanics this year, with 90 percent non-commissioned officers, and 10 percent officers, a second spokesman said. Their main task will be to maintain the fighter engines and avionics.
The service is keen to see French officers of the right rank assigned to allied command centers and that the conditions in airbases overseas fully support personnel and aircraft, the first spokesman said.
Fighter pilots are flying a highly intensive rate of missions overseas, five times that of those charged with security of the domestic airspace and nuclear deterrent missions.
“Eight Mirage 2000s in Jordan are flying the equivalent of 40 aircraft in France,” Lanata said. “They are five times more flown.”
Pilots and co-pilots are flying 90 hours on a two-month assignment, half the total number of hours scheduled in a year under the service budget.
The crews can manage the rate of missions but there is less equipment and time available to train young pilots, he said.
Mirages and Rafales are respectively deployed in the Chammal operation over Iraq and Syria, and the Barkhane mission in sub-Saharan Africa. The requirement for aircraft maintenance and spares is stretching the operational plan.
Asked whether the service could take on a mission over Libya, Lanata said the Air Force could take up the operation but after a certain time, other missions would need to be reconsidered.
The Air Force is flying out combat missions out of airbases in Abu Dhabi, Chad, Jordan and Niger.