SOUTHWEST ASIA —
As of March 2020, the French fighter detachment with “Operation Chammal,” French military support to Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, now flies with enhanced capabilities in the fight to defeat Daesh remnants in Iraq and Syria.
French Rafale aircraft are now equipped with a RECO-NG (new generation reconnaissance pod), giving the fighters more imagery collection capability and diversifying their air support to the international Coalition to defeat Daesh. The RECO-NG is a long range, high resolution reconnaissance pod designed to provide intelligence imagery installed onto fighter aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 and Rafale. It consists of two large size digital matrix arrays for visible and infrared detection.
"The RECO-NG makes our missions more flexible,” said French Air Force Col. Benjamin Souberbielle, commander of the deployed air base. “The two aircraft patrol with the ability to achieve three complementary effects: ground support, air defense and intelligence. The novelty consists in the use of this sensor almost daily over the theater, while carrying out our usual air defense and ground support missions.”
The RECO-NG, 4.6 meters long and weighing 1100 kilograms, is positioned under the fuselage of the Rafale. There, pilots use the equipment to document day and night missions, and identify Daesh positions and equipment such as weapons caches, tunnels, vehicles and training camps.
"The photos are of excellent quality. The precise tracking and the high-performance zoom allow clear identification," explained the unit's image interpreter. “This system is also very agile: once in flight, the pilot can decide to modify the shots according to the opportunities that arise during the mission.”
Thanks to this high-performance equipment, French air patrols adopt a new configuration. While the first aircraft retains its bomb load to provide lethal air support to ground security partners, the second is equipped with the RECO-NG to enable additional intelligence gathering.
"The RECO-NG represents an additional capability brought to the Coalition and optimizes our existing assets in theater,” said the Rafale detachment commander. "These photos give us national autonomy to assess the situation, in addition to sharing information with the Coalition.”
France remains committed within the international Coalition against ISIS on several fronts: permanent presence of a frigate in the eastern Mediterranean; air missions of the Rafalesstationed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates; and planning officers within the CJTF-OIR staff.
Photo 1: A French Air Force Rafale fighter takes off carrying a POD RECO-NG in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. The POD RECO-NG provides enhanced imagery collection capability in the international fight against Daesh. (French Defence Staff photo)
Photo 2: A French Air Force Rafale single-seat fighter deployed to the expeditionary air base in Jordan with the new POD RECO-NG reconnaissance pod fitted to its centerline pylon. This pod has been operational since the end of March 2020. The POD RECO-NG provides enhanced imagery collection capability in the international fight against Daesh. (French Defence Staff photo)
To see in Arabic: CJTF-OIR Press Release 20200502-01 - French fighter jets use new camera configuration to zoom in on ISIS