French Navy Atlantique 2 (ATL2) has again joined this theater of operations, which it had left a few months ago, to reinforce the air force at the planned air base (BAP) of Niamey, for the benefit of Force Barkhane. The aircraft capabilities contribute to the intelligence system deployed in the Sahelo-Sahelian Band (BSS). Thanks to its numerous sensors, the ATL2 makes it possible to precisely work out the situation on the ground, to support the ground forces. With an autonomy of ten hours, it can cover a very large area. Armed with laser-guided bombs, which it can deliver autonomously, the ATL2 is able to support the targeting chain, from target detection to destruction.
Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation that started on August 1, 2014, and is led by the French military against Islamist groups in Africa’s Sahel region. It consists of a roughly 5,000-strong French force, which is permanently headquartered in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. The operation is led in co-operation with five countries, all of which are former French colonies that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The countries are collectively referred to as the “G5 Sahel”. The operation is named after a crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert.
The Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic is a long-range maritime patrol aircraft designed and manufactured by French aircraft manufacturer Breguet Aviation. Designed in response to a 1958 NATO specification as a replacement for the Lockheed P2V Neptune, Breguet’s submission was declared the winner over several competing bids. To produce the Atlantic, a multinational consortium, Société d’Étude et de Construction de Breguet Atlantic (SECBAT), was established. An updated version, the Atlantique 2 or ATL2, was produced by Dassault Aviation for the French Navy in the 1980s. A further improved model, the Atlantique 3, was proposed during the 1990s but ultimately unbuilt.
The Atlantic has been operated by a number of countries, commonly performing maritime roles such as reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare and also capable of carrying air-to-ground munitions to perform ground-attack missions. The ATL2 has been in service for twenty or so years, and has undergone several retrofits. A renovation operation is in progress (2019–25); 18 out of the 22 ATL2 Standard 5 operated by the French Navy are upgraded to the new version called ‘Standard 6’. The upgrade is comprehensive and should allow the aircraft to operate until 2030. It includes the development of a new combat system called ‘Logiciel de traitement de l’information operationelle nouvelle génération’ (LOTI-NG).