Operation Barkhane - Design and conduct of operations of French commando paratroopers


The Design and Operations Management Unit (3CO) of the Parachute Commando Subgroup (Sous-Groupement de Commandos Parachutistes, SGCP) of the Barkhane force is the hinge between the commandos and their tactical chief deployed on the ground and the Joint Theater Command Post (Poste de Commandement Interarmées de Théâtre, PCIAT). The 3CO is responsible for planning, commanding, exploiting the results of the action and directing the maneuver of the paratrooper commandos.
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Tecnam Masstech tactical vehicles of the French commando paratroopers and a CH-47F Chinook in Operation Barkhane (Picture source: French MoD)


The SGCP is a combined arms tactical element, with its own health, engineering, coordination with the 3rd dimension (Air), canine and drop personnel or equipment. It constitutes the Barkhane reserve unit, in the hand of the Force Commander (COMANFOR). The latter thus has a unit that can be engaged in the field on short notice thanks to the diversity of its deployment methods: in light vehicles, after a drop-off by helicopters, or even by parachuting, allowing it to seize opportunities. Due to its combined arms nature and its firepower, the SGCP is capable of fulfilling a wide range of missions ranging from intelligence to actions in depth. This independence and responsiveness are guaranteed by a short chain of command, ensured by 3CO, directly placed under the orders of PCIAT and COMANFOR.


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The 3CO is commanded by the head of the SGCP. Lieutenant-Colonel Frédéric, who will take over as chief of the GCP cell in the staff of the 11th Parachute Brigade in the summer, is the current SGCP chief for Barkhane (Picture source: French MoD)


Composed of a senior non-commissioned officer, tactical assistant trained in intelligence and responsible for reporting information from the field to the PCIAT, a transmitting non-commissioned officer, responsible for permanently maintaining the link with the deployed commandos, the 3CO is commanded by the head of the SGCP. Lieutenant-Colonel Frédéric, who will take over as chief of the GCP cell in the staff of the 11th Parachute Brigade in the summer, is the current SGCP chief at Barkhane. He gives us his vision of coordination within this particular unit: “The satellite resources in place allow a true command link to be established between 3CO, in N'Djamena, and the SGCP when it is deployed in the field. In the search for greater efficiency, we will soon be densifying our system by moving 3CO to Gao and deploying a liaison detachment to N’Djamena ".


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French HAP Tigre (Hélicoptère d'Appui Protection) involved in Operation Barkhane (Picture source: French MoD)


This permanent interaction between the operational and tactical levels was illustrated during the last major operation carried out by the SGCP, from May 9 to 17, in the Malian Gourma region. This operation allowed the successive discovery of numerous logistical plots and gradually approaching the enemy’s refuge areas. On May 12, the commandos were in direct contact with the enemy. After exchanges of fire, the jihadist fighters try to withdraw before renewing their attack. A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone engaged in support of ground action, guided by the SGCP's Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC), puts the enemy group out of action. Several members of the Terrorist Army Groups are neutralized. Arms and many other materials are also recovered from the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Frédéric specifies on this subject, “Most of the operations of the SGCP are triggered following the conclusions of the intelligence branch characterizing areas of particular interest. Immediately, planning work begins at the level of the design and operations management unit and the PCIAT. But it is during the conduct of the operation that everything is played out: the commandos constantly collect intelligence that the 3CO sucks up and ventilates with PCIAT specialists, who draw analyzes allowing us to redirect and maximize our harassment actions of armed terrorist groups ”.


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French Tecnam Masstech tactical vehicles in Operation Barkhane (Picture source: French MoD)


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