France will likely shrink its operational footprint in Africa and increase its presence in the Pacific, Gen. Stephane Mille, the chief of staff of the French air and space force, said Monday in conversation with reporters.
In the near future, France will reduce its forces in Africa. The August Niger coup resulted in France’s military agreement being terminated, French nationals having to leave the country, and the French Ambassador being placed under house arrest.
But that doesn’t mean that France will end its support of counter-terrorism missions in the Sahel. Instead, France will be working with various governments to understand their needs and fly forces in when needed for contingencies or events. “For a period of time, training, and things like that,” Mille stated. “It’s a good use of air force capability, especially transport aircraft.”
That’s one reason why the recently passed French defense budget allocates funds for three additional Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft.
Mille described recent protests against the French government in Niger as “surprising,” “well organized” and “not spontaneous.” Analysts have found metadata showing Russian military figures journeyed to Niger near the time of the coup.
Said Mille: “There are some links, of course, and so we have to pay attention about all competitors that could be behind the situation in Africa…This is what we have seen in Mali. ” But the fact of Russian involvement needs further analysis, he said.
The large transport aircraft will also play a crucial role in France’s evolving Pacific strategy. Mille pointed to French airbases in French Polynesia, and New Caledonia.
” “We’re a Pacific nation, and so we are present there by default,” said Mille.
The recently concluded Pegase 23 mission saw the deployment of five A330 MRTT transport planes, four A400M military transport aircraft, and 10 Rafale fighter jets, according to a press package from the French government on the mission. French forces also participated alongside the United States and other regional partners in several exercises such as Talisman Sabre and Northern Edge.
“We are covering more and more of the area” in the Pacific, Mille said. “We will be more present in the future.”
The new French defense budget also invests in new constellations of low earth orbit satellites for communication, he said.
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