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French military hones anti-aircraft missile capability

By Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi | | June 13, 2003

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Combat capabilities between Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and French troops were displayed during an exercise that honed both force's anti-aircraft tactics, techniques and procedures, here.

The exercise's objective was to refine the CJTF ability to defend the camp against a variety of aerial threats. French Mirage aircraft served as the attacking enemy force flying offensive patterns simulating different attack profiles.  

"We welcome French involvement. The level of our cooperation grows daily," said Marine Lt. Col. Harold J. Flanagan, force protection officer, Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command. "They are a part of our base defense plan."

The strength of the two forces derives from their common bond to create a secure and stable environment in Djibouti, according to Flanagan. This bond is displayed in many forms to include completing numerous training exercises and utilizing each other's assets to achieve their goals. 

During the exercise, the French had numerous Anti-Air Missile Systems called Mistrals positioned in different key locations aboard camp to track the planes.

The Mistral is a short-range air defense missile system that can be used from various platforms - vehicles, surface ships, helicopters and a portable configuration.

The system is portable by two people, one carrying the missile and one carrying the firing unit. The system can be set up and ready to fire in 60 seconds.

A telescopic sight is used for target acquisition. The IFF (identification, friend or foe) interrogator installed in the launcher operates while the target is being tracked. The system can also be fitted with a thermal imaging night sight.

The missile is fired when the gunner sees a confirmation light on the launcher signaling that the infrared sensor system is locked-on to the target. The missile's range is up to 6 kilometers, which it reaches in 9 seconds.

This is one of many resources French forces bring to the region. Djibouti, their largest foreign military base, hosts several thousand French military personnel who are here to provide for the internal defense of Djibouti.

Force protection officers supporting the CJTF-HOA meet with their French counterparts weekly to discuss coordination of security, assignments of control sectors and innovative new force protection measures.

"My deputy's (Chief Warrant Officer Michel P. Flynn) ability to fluently speak French greatly increased our relationship and ability to coordinate tangible benefits to increase our security measures," said Flanagan, a reserve Marine from 4th Force Service Support Group, New Orleans.

Along with their ability to take out enemy aircraft, the two nations are also ensuring the skies over Djibouti are safe and sound by serving cooperatively as the air traffic controllers. This allows the two nations to guarantee military and civilian aircraft land and take off safely at Djibouti International Airport.

"The working relationship is professional and friendly," said Marine 1st Lt. Howard Mui, officer-in-charge of Marine Air Control Squadron - Air Traffic Control Detachment. "The French can be relied upon to assist us when prior coordination is achieved."

By working hand-in-hand, French and CJTF troops complement each other's mission of detecting, disrupting and defeating terrorists who pose an imminent threat to coalition partners in the region, and providing for defense, security and stability of Djibouti. 

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