French Combat SAR Aircraft

The "Commandos de l'air" of the GFCA use specialized C-SAR helos. They use Pumas for rescue or insertions operations. These anglo-french helicopters are specially modified with FLIR, GPS, high-tech communication system, additional fuel tanks and armoured protection. They have been used for C-SAR missions since the Gulf War, when a Puma from helicopter squadron EH 1/67 "Alpilles" recovered a shot down USAF pilot (under protection of USAF A-10s).

During an operation over Gorazde, (in operation Deny Flight) Bosnia, it is said that a french Eurocopter AS330Ba Puma rescued a Sea Harrier pilot from the Royal Navy who was shot down by Serbian AA artillery.

Since the 1990s the French Air Force has put a great emphasis on C-SAR missions. But the use of combat helicopters isn't new in France. During the war in Algeria (1954-62), the French did an intensive use of Sikorsky and Piasecki's ("Banana") helos for troops transportation. They even installed a 20mm gun on some Sikorsky hss-1 for anti-guerilla operation. And they got very good results. They also used such "Pirates" version in Chad against Lybian-supported rebels which were decimated by such weapons.

For the present time, the french are testing a new updated version of Puma: the AS355 COUGAR. Some of these helo are already used by the DGSE (french equivalent of CIA or Mossad). The french air force version will receive "state of the art" equipments and even a refueling probe for air-refuelling like the MH-53J.

As a conclusion, when Deny Flight started , the USAF asked to other nations to help them in CSAR missions. But only the French Air Force and the French Navy (with Super-Frelons) agreed and took the alert duty.