PARIS — The French Air Force on Friday diverted an A400M airlifter from a military mission to fly 25 tons of humanitarian aid in support of rescue efforts on Lombok, an Indonesian island devastated by a series of powerful and deadly earthquakes.
The Atlas A400M plane had been in Indonesia since Aug. 19 on a French Air Force long-range operational mission dubbed Pegase, in a fleet including three Rafale B fighter jets, an A310 transport plane and in some stages a C-135 in-flight refueling tanker, the Air Force said in a statement. Some 100 aircrew are deployed in the mission.
As the aircraft were in the region, France, through its Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew on the resources to fly in support of the recovery effort, the Air Force said.
The A400M flew from Jakarta, delivering food supplies, two ambulances, building material, personal products and paramedical staff from nongovernmental organizations.
While in Indonesia, the French aircrew worked and flew with their Indonesian counterparts in a bid to boost operational cooperation under the Pegase mission.
A series of quakes have hit Lombok, an Indonesian holiday island just east of Bali, with one powerful earthquake on July 29 leading to more than 430 deaths.
The A400M, after the rescue effort, flew to Malaysia to catch up with the rest of the Pegase mission.
After Malaysia, the aircraft fleet will fly to Vietnam, Singapore and India, part of a French effort to maintain its “knowledge of this region of strategic interest and to contribute to the development of military cooperation between France and its partners,” the Air Force said.
There is also a determination to show a regular French presence in the region and to show that the French Air Force can deploy anywhere around the world, while respecting international law and freedom of air routes.
The aircraft fleet is flying back to France after taking part in the three-week Australian Pitch Black air exercise, which ran July 27 to Aug. 17 and brought together some 15 allied nations.