From Corsica, French Jets Roar Into Action Over Libya The French air force was the first to go into action over Libya. And since then, French aircraft have flown more missions enforcing the U.N. resolution than any other country except the United States. Most of those missions have been launched from an air base on the French island of Corsica.
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From Corsica, French Jets Roar Into Action Over Libya

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From Corsica, French Jets Roar Into Action Over Libya

From Corsica, French Jets Roar Into Action Over Libya

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Eleanor Beardsley traveled there.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: From a runway wedged between snow-capped mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, Rafale and Mirage jets roar into the sky, one after the other, their metallic skins flashing in the morning sun.

(SOUNDBITE OF JET PLANES)

BEARDSLEY: French planes also fly out of bases on mainland France and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle off the coast of Libya. Colonel Eric Bometon is second in command at Solenzara.

ERIC BOMETON: (Through Translator) We were just coming out of a joint allied training exercise for Afghanistan when the Libyan operation came up, so the base was ready and within 48 hours we were flying missions over Libya.

BEARDSLEY: Solenzara is used as a training ground for pilots going to Afghanistan because of its mountainous terrain and hot climate. Today, a pool of 50 pilots fly around 25 missions a day over Libya. Thirty-seven-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Wencker is captain of a squadron of Mirage 2000 bombers

PIERRE WENCKER: (Through Translator) Flying over Libya is not so technically different from flying over Afghanistan. The mission is the same: giving air cover and protection to people on the ground. In Afghanistan, it's coalition forces. In Libya, it's civilians.

BEARDSLEY: The sound of the jets returning to base can be heard over the clattering of dinner plates in a local bistro. At least, all that plane noise is serving a purpose now, says local resident Michele Aulery.

MICHELE AULERY: (Through Translator) I was very moved when I saw Libyans on TV yelling, thank you, France, and thank you, Sarkozy. They felt hope and protected. I think we're doing the right thing.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Solenzara, Corsica.

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