NAVALTODAY.COM, 8 June 2017
A French Navy Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft conducted its first ever operational flight as part of EUNAVFOR’s Mediterranean Sea operation Sophia on June 7.
An upgraded version of the Breguet Atlantic that made its first flight in 1961, Atlantique 2 is joining four other aircraft from Spain, Luxembourg and France that are already part of operation Sophia.
In addition to aircraft assets, five ships and two embarked helicopters are currently part of the operation.
The mission is one element of a broader EU response to the migration issue. The units deployed identify, capture and dispose of vessels used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers, in order to contribute to wider EU efforts to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean.
While this is the first flight of the Atlantique 2 for operation Sophia, it is not the first air asset France contributed to the mission as it previously deployed the Dassault Aviation-built Falcon 50 Surmar maritime surveillance aircraft.
Atlantique 2 has a wingspan of 37.4 meters, has a maximum take-off weight of 46,200 kg and an endurance of 14 hours.