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France to phase out C-160 Gabriel SIGINT aircraft early

The French Air Force will phase out its two C-160 Gabriel signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft in 2022, three years ahead of schedule.

This is linked to the phasing out of the C-160 Transall, on which the Gabriel is based. Two C-160s were modified and fitted with mission equipment from Thales before entering service at the end of the 1980s.

They participated in the 1991 Gulf War and in all French overseas operations since. In recent years, they have operated against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq and against IS and Al Qaeda in Sahel. They also regularly operate close to Russia. The aircraft were to be phased out in 2026 and 2028, respectively, until the 2018 announcement of their phase-out in 2025.

Their replacement, the Archangel, a Falcon 8X extensively modified by Dassault Aviation, is not expected to be delivered before 2026 at the earliest. Three aircraft are to be delivered by 2030.

France’s only similar capability is the Analyseur de Signaux Tactiques (Tactical Signals Analyser, ASTAC) reconnaissance pod, which can be carried by the Mirage 2000D fighter, but it only has electronic intelligence capabilities and often needs to be operated by two aircraft. The communication intelligence pods expected since 2016 for French Reaper Block 5 unmanned aerial vehicles are to be delivered in 2022.

Source: Janes

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