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Thursday, September 29, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

France details operations of drone in Libya, commandeered by staff in Sicily

LONDON — France has reported on the performance of its unmanned aerial vehicle in Libya.


The French Air Force said the Israeli-designed Harfang UAV began its first operational mission in Libya on Aug. 24. The Air Force said Harfang, based on Israel's Heron UAV, conducted an 18-hour reconnaissance operation over Libyan territory.

Harfang began operations at the Italian base in Sigonella, Sicily under the UAV squadron of the French Air Force. Officials said the squadron consisted of 25 operators of Harfang, who integrated the UAV with five Rafale fighter-jets assigned to Libya. The UAV flight from Sicily to Libya was said to take four hours.

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"In parallel, flight operations staff, intelligence officers and photo analysts also worked to assimilate the rules for drone operations in operations area," the French Air Force said.

"They also supported the information systems and communications team so that dedicated networks could be stood up as fast as possible."

Italy has been briefed on Harfang operations over Libya. Harfang was based on the Heron UAV of Israel Aerospace Industries, deployed by NATO allies in Afghanistan.

"All is well," Air Force Captain C., chief technical Officer of the 1/33 squadron, said. "It's running like clockwork."

Harfang, with automatic landing mode, has a reconnaissance system that included IAI's Multimission Optronic Stabilized Payload. MOSP, designed by IAI's Tamam division, is capable of day and night operations.

"The aircraft took a series of photographs in both IR and visible spectrum of this awe-inspiring phenomenon before returning to its departure point," the French Air Force said.

On Aug. 27, Harfang was integrated with other reconnaissance and surveillance assets that operated over Libya. The assets included a French Air Force E-3F airborne early-warning and alert aircraft.

"The command center is somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data on the ground situation transmitted by the drone," the French Air Force said. "However, the information is so useful that, after many hours over Libyan territory, the command post requested a three-hour extension of the mission."

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