French air force sends Eagle 1 UAVs to Afghanistan

By Craig Hoyle

France is to boost its commitment to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with its air force deploying its new EADS/Israel Aerospace Industries Eagle 1 unmanned aircraft system to Bagram airbase.

Also dubbed the SIDM, the deployed system will comprise three medium-altitude, long-endurance air vehicles and associated ground control and support equipment.

The French air force formally accepted its SIDM system from EADS Defence & Security in late January, after training activities totalling around 200h were conducted by its personnel at Mont-de-Marsan air base. The defence ministry decided to immediately deploy the equipment after voicing "customer satisfaction and confidence", says EADS, which will provide additional logistics support for the deployment.

"The presence of SIDM in this theatre gives the French forces and their allies the required and desired long-endurance, medium-altitude surveillance capabilities," says Hervé Guillou, chief executive for EADS DS in France. The air force's Eagle 1 is derived from IAI's Heron unmanned air vehicle design.

France's air force commitment to the ISAF also includes four Dassault Rafale multirole fighters deployed to Kandahar airfield. Its army also expects to send its Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters to the country for the first time in the second quarter of this year.

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