French Air Force Anticipates Long Campaign in Iraq

The chief of staff of the French Air Force told reporters at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event at the Air Force Association on Wednesday he anticipates his forces will aid the coalition air campaign against ISIS in Iraq for the foreseeable future, at least until the next French presidential election in 2017. “I think at the present time, the main aim of airpower is to ensure the [Iraqi forces] have freedom of action,” Gen. Denis Mercier told reporters. “We have to maintain a threat on [ISIS], and make sure Iraqis will have free movement to fight.” France began its deployment to support counter ISIS operations last August, when the country first deployed transport and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. France then followed by sending combat aircraft—both its Dassault Rafale fighters as well as its Mirage 2000 strike fighters—six of each variant are now flying combat operations in Iraq, he added. At the outbreak of the campaign, France had jets available to press into operations, as it had forward based assets both in the United Arab Emirates, where it maintains an air detachment, and had another deployment of Mirage 2000s flying with the Royal Jordanian Air Force.