• 18'
  • Author : Guillaume Barthélémy
  • 14-07-2021
  • Master : 3080


At every July 14 Parade the ritual is the same! An unforgettable high point that forces thousands of spectators to look up to the sky… the fly-past by the helicopters of the French Army. Firstly, the noise, deafening, the feeling of power, but also the inch-perfect alignment despite their imposing size and the number in the flight… it has everything to cause the massed crowds of the curious on the Champs-Elysées to gape. A moment of magic that many would not miss for anything in the world. However, this impressive fly-past presents much more than a shop window for high-tech equipment. It also, and most importantly, represents a certain French pride. Because, yes, our country produces and uses combat helicopters that are certainly the most efficient in the world. In Phalsbourg, in Lorraine, the First Combat Helicopter Regiment (the RHC) is home to the cream in this domain. “TIGRE”, “CAÏMAN”, these are the code names of the most sophisticated combat machines in the world. As with the fighter plane “Rafale”, the armies of the whole world envy us these machines. And for good reason. While skimming hillsides at less than 50 metres from the ground, they are capable of crazy speeds: 275kmh for the Tigre, 300 for the Caïman. These helicopters fitted with the latest armaments are indispensable air support for all transport and combat operations in the most hostile terrains of the globe. Machines capable of carrying out air raids more than 2,000 km from their bases. Helicopters that have already made their mark in our country’s history by their efficacy, as in the Sahel during Operation BARKHANE. A French military presence that, since 2014, has had the mission of monitoring and fighting armed Salafist, jihadist groups throughout the region. Without this air power, many ground missions could not be carried out without material and, more importantly, human loss. Captain Sylvain MATTHIEU, commanding officer aboard a CAÏMAN, is one of the men involved in this operation. With rescue operations and transport of commando teams, the years spent in Mali at the controls of his NH 90 have made him a hero in the shadows. With him, we plunge into a “full scale” exercise by the First Combat Helicopter Regiment of Phalsbourg. A rescue operation thousands of kilometres from the base that will necessitate the deployment of four TIGRE and three CAÏMAN helicopters. At a location kept secret, some ten French soldiers are waiting to be exfiltrated and brought back to France. On this Thursday in the month of May, the squadron leaves its base… it is 02h00 hours.

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