MNAAvBn disbanded in Ploce

Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#151, November 7, 2002

This beautiful city on the Dalmatian coast has been home for men and their helicopters since 1995. First as UNPROFOR, then IFOR and now SFOR the Army Aviation airmen have been stationed here, constantly and steadfastly accomplishing the missions assigned to them. Lt. Col. (French Army) Hubert Figeat was the last commander of the 'Salamandre' Battalion, also called Multinational Army Aviation Battalion (MNAAvBn).

Ploce - "Our missions were to provide rapid movement, and occasionally fire support, to the troops of Multinational Division South-east (MND-SE). To be able to heli-transport an infantry company anywhere in the Area of Responsibility of the division and also to carry out casualties evacuation within 30-minutes notice by day and one hour by night", said Figeat.

46,000 flying hours
The unit achieved a record of more than 46,000 flying hours with some 237 casualties' evacuated. These hours were shared out among the different types of helicopters and detachments, since the battalion had two outposts, one in Ploce with the Headquarters equiped with French and Spanish Helicopters and the one other in Rajlovac, with French, German and Italian aircraft.

"We also took part in different activities with our divisional troops, such as border and boundary surveillance, support to the battle groups and other operational, logistic and humanitarian actions," explained Maj. Régis Mange, MNAAvBn S3 Operations.
The battalion comprised of several kinds of aircraft, all with different nicknames, as is usual in the aviation world. There was a huge German CH-53 G called 'Lili' and 'Twiggy' the smallest BO-105 . Also the French transport helicopters the SA-330 Puma 'Buffalo' along with the attacker SA-342 Gazelle 'Scorpion'. As well as Italian light AB205 'Spin' and Spanish transport AS532 UL Cougar 'Aguila'. All of them working together under the same command and with the same goal.
As said by Spanish Army Aviation Capt. José Galvañ Bonmatí, liaison officer in the Battalion, "We run all helicopters operations in the division and in order to integrate into the unit it was not necessary to change the common procedures, they are almost the same."

The end of a unit
During the time the Battalion was operating, they performed more than 15,000 flight missions. Many different performances in all of them, from firing with small weapons during IFOR (Implementation Force, from Dec. 1995 to Dec. 1996, to supporting the officials during the elections in the country. All in all, only one fatal accident with one airman killed in action when a 'Scorpion' crashed into the sea off the coast of Ploce during a test flight on Jan. 20, 2002.
MNAAvBn was disbanded in a touching ceremony where German and French troops said goodbye to Bosnia and Herzegovina, flying back to their countries. From now on there will be two helicopter detachments within MND-SE but without constituting the same unit. The Italian 'Spin' in Rajlovac and the Spanish 'Aguila' in Mostar will be the wings of the division.

French Army Aviation Staff Sgt. Frederik Legrain was a pilot with 'Buffalo' squadron in Ploce. "I spent eleven months in Split in this kind of mission and now another tour in Ploce. We had more chances to fly around here, training with our helos. That's great for a pilot," said Legrain, a member of the 5th RHC (Combat Helicopter Regiment) from Pau, South of France, which was the same regiment that implemented the first mission there in 1995.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France, Germany, Italy, Spain
SFOR at Work

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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

The town of Ploce, Croatia has been an essential logistical and operational location since the beginning of 1996 and the Implementation Force (IFOR). The port was one of the most used entry points for the supplying of material, spare parts, food and goods.


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Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

A French Gazelle was also displayed on the ground during the ceremony at the Ploce harbour facilities.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Military personnel from the different countries that constitute MND-SE attended the ceremony.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Two French Gazelles from the 'Scorpion' squadron take off for the aerial parade.


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Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

Two French Puma and one Spanish Cougar took part to the aerial parade.