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French Gazelle down in North Africa, crew rescued

25 June 2019
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A French Army Gazelle was shot down during operations in North Africa, although all three personnel onboard were immediately rescued. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

A French Aerospatiale SA341 Gazelle observation and light attack helicopter crashed during operations in North Africa in mid-June.

The French Army Light Aviation (Aviation Légère de L'Armée de Terre: ALAT) helicopter was reportedly hit by small-arms fire while flying near the border of Mali and Niger under the auspices of Operation 'Barkhane'. All three personnel onboard were immediately rescued.

Following a controlled crash landing, the two pilots were extracted by being strapped to the landing gear of an Airbus Tiger attack helicopter. The third person, a special forces soldier, destroyed the damaged Gazelle before being exfiltrated in another helicopter.

France has been engaged in a counter-terrorism campaign throughout the Sahel-Sahara region of northern Africa since 2012, with helicopters supporting the core of combat and air mobility operations.

In an area of operations that covers the G5 Sahel countries (and former French colonies) of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, which is about 3,200 km across and wider than Europe, the French military deployed on Operation 'Serval' and latterly Operation 'Barkhane' have been largely dependent on the helicopters provided mainly by ALAT.

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