French flyers in Australia for joint desert drill

29th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

DARWIN, Australia, July 29 (AFP) - The chief of the French Air Force on Thursday backed the practice of joint training exercises as personnel from four nations including France took part in the biggest air force exercise held yet in Australia.

DARWIN, Australia, July 29 (AFP) - The chief of the French Air Force on Thursday backed the practice of joint training exercises as personnel from four nations including France took part in the biggest air force exercise held yet in Australia.

General Richard Wolsztynski said countries should seize any opportunity for their forces to participate in joint training exercises.

"Generally speaking, any time airforces take any opportunities offered to them to meet each other and practice, that's a good thing," Wolsztynski told reporters.

Military personnel from Australia, France, Singapore and Thailand are taking part in the three-week exercise called Pitch Black involving 1,700 people and 75 aircraft.

The aircraft simulate air combat situations and are supported by ground personnel using radar and Rapier surface-to-air missile systems.

The French air force is participating for the first time despite its government's opposition to the US-led operations in Iraq, to which Australia is strongly committed.

Eighty French top guns are flying four Mirage fighters and a C-135 refuelling aircraft in the desert operations.

The French air force worked closely with Australian refuelling crews and special forces during the invasion of Afghanistan and all four Pitch Black forces worked together in UN peacekeeping operations in East Timor in 1999.

Earlier this month, Canberra announced three facilities would be built in Australia's north to host training exercises between the United States and Australia.

"That's no problem for me," Wolsztynski told reporters. "Australia does what it wants, and the US too. Whether it's on a bilateral basis or multilateral basis... it's no problem."

The air combat training exercise is held every two years.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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