Replay
The Sound Kitchen
Party-On Pakistan !
 
Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 03/26 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 03/26 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 03/28 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 03/26 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 03/28 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 03/26 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 03/28 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 03/26 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Afp

Born killers: French army grooms eagles to down drones

By AFP
media A royal eagle catches a drone during a military exercise at the Mont-de-Marsan airbase, southwestern France AFP

Faced with the risk of drones being used to snoop or carry out attacks on French soil, the air force is showing its claws.

At Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France a quartet of fearsome golden eagles is being trained to take out unmanned aircraft in mid-flight.

The roar of a departing Rafale fighter jet gives way to the buzz of a drone lifting into the air on a runway at the air base, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Bordeaux.

Suddenly, a loud squawk fills the air as a beady-eyed eagle bears down at breakneck speed from a control tower 200 metres away.

In about 20 seconds the raptor has the drone between its talons, then pins it to the ground and covers it with its broad brown wings.

The drone has been destroyed: Mission accomplished for D'Artagnan.

The valiant bird is one of four feathered fighters -- along with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, all characters in French novelist Alexandre Dumas's "The Three Musketeers" -- being put through their paces since mid-2016.

Mont-de-Marsan is one of five air bases in France to boast a falconry.

Usually, the birds of prey -- generally falcons or northern goshawks -- are kept to scare birds away from the runway to reduce the risk of accidents during takeoff or landing.

But with France on high alert after a string of jihadist assaults since January 2015, they are now sinking their beaks into national security.

"The results are encouraging. The eagles are making good progress," said Commander Christophe, who heads the air safety squadron that is training the plumed predators.

Like all French military personnel, he offers only his first name and rank to journalists.

He says the birds are performing three to four months ahead of projections.

- Hunting instincts -

Police in The Netherlands were the first to come up with the idea of using raptors to intercept drones, inducting bald eagles into the service in late 2015.

The French army followed suit last year, but it opted for the golden eagle -- a natural-born killer with a hooked beak, amber eyes and a wingspan of up to 2.2 metres (seven feet).

Like all birds of prey, the golden eagle has excellent eyesight, capable of spotting its target from two kilometres away.

At between three and five kilograms (11 pounds) it also happens to weigh about the same as most of the drones that could be used for nefarious purposes -- or that simply go astray.

And an eagle is devastatingly fast, clocking 80 kilometres an hour as it swoops in for the kill.

Hatched in captivity, the four "musketeers" had their food served atop wrecked drones from the age of three weeks.

Thanks to this technique, the birds very quickly began to seize remotely piloted aircraft for food.

So when drones buzz above, their hunting instinct kicks in, with falconer Gerald Machoukow rewarding every successful interception with a hunk of meat.

- Protective mittens -

The birds begin with flights in a straight line, graduating to diving from a height. Soon they will be casting off from peaks in the nearby Pyrenees Mountains.

The buzz around the project is palpable.

A first progress report is due in June, halfway through the 24-month test programme, but the initial feedback is positive.

"The cost is very low considering the job at hand," said Commander Laurent, listing strategic sites such as airports, or events such as summits and football tournaments, among those where the eagles could be deployed.

To prevent the birds from harming themselves on the job, the military is designing mittens of leather and Kevlar, an anti-blast material, to protect their talons.

"I love these birds," Machoukow said. "I don't want to send them to their death."

He cautions against setting "impossible" tasks for his charges, like launching them against larger drones with potentially deadly propellers.

Commander Laurent agrees that the birds are part of a palette of weapons available to the army in countering the threat from drones -- not a fix-all solution.

But the air force is already smitten enough to have ordered a second brood of eaglets.

Mont-de-Marsan expects to welcome four more future aviator eagles by the summer.

 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.