French Forces

The core of the French ground forces deployed to the Gulf came from a special force called the Force d’Action Rapide (FAR). The key element of this force included the 6th Light Armored Division reinforced with additional airmobile and other assets. Along with the FAR, the French also deployed elements of the 9th Marine Division; including the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment, a 269-man detachment of the 3rd Marine Regiment, and the 11th Marine Regiment. The total French ground force in the Gulf included about 9,000 personnel. The French airmobile and anti-armor capabilities were primarily used in the long-range thrust securing the Coalition’s western flank ahead of the XVIII Corps.[26] While it is known that the French troops possessed some chemical detection equipment, it is understood that France did not deploy any chemical specialists to the Gulf. The assumption is that personnel in the French units were trained in the operation of the detection equipment, but that was not their primary area of expertise.

Unlike the Czech forces, French forces in the theater remained under French command, but maintained a coordinating relationship with the Commander of the Joint Forces-Theater of Operations. The French 6th Light Armored Division was placed under the tactical control of the US Army Central Command (ARCENT), where it operated as a unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps.[27] The "French forces worked closely with the 2nd brigade of the 82nd US Airborne Division, obtained extensive fire support from the 18th US Army artillery brigade and obtained occasional close air support from the US Air Force."[28]

French Chemical Detection Equipment[29]

The French government has not disclosed the specific chemical detection equipment and methodologies used by French forces during the Gulf War. The United States DoD has requested this information, but, to date, no response has been received. When this information becomes available it will be posted in an update to this narrative.

Without information from the French, investigators used military equipment reference books, such as Jane’s NBC Protection Equipment and the Worldwide Chemical Detection Equipment Handbook, to understand pieces of equipment that are normally contained in their inventory. These books have identified the APACC and the TDCC Chemical Detection Control Kit as the standard chemical detection devices used by French ground forces. This is supported, in part, by a manufacturer’s brochure that claims that the AP2C, part of the APACC, was used during the Gulf War.[30]

APACC Chemical Control Alarm Portable Apparatus

The APACC can detect the presence of both nerve and blister agents. It is comprised of the AP2C and an ADAC alarm. The presence of a chemical agent activates both an audible and visible alarm. In its portable configuration the APACC can be hand-held, placed on the ground, or vehicle mounted. The AP2C is designed to detect and monitor for the presence of elemental phosphorus and sulfur in a given air sample. Consequently, it is used to detect nerve agents (organophosphorus compounds) and Mustard agents (sulfur compounds) in the atmosphere. To detect liquid contamination, a special sampling tip is used to collect the sample. The sample is then heated to turn any contamination into a vapor form. The AP2C can detect G-agents at concentrations of 0.01 mg/m3 within two seconds, and H-agents at concentrations of 0.4 mg/m3 within two seconds. Sulfurated fuel smokes can provide inaccurate readings and false alarms.[31]

TDCC Chemical Detection Control Kit

The TDCC can detect and identify chemical agent vapors in the air and liquid contamination in water and on various surfaces. A hand pump draws a constant volume of ambient air through an absorbent paper disc mounted on the pump. Toxic agents adhering to the paper are identified after exposure to one or more of eight reagents from the kit. The reagents produce a color change that is specific to each type of chemical agent. Detection papers from the kit are used to identify liquid contamination. The TDCC can detect blister agents down to concentrations of 0.15-1.0 mg/m3 and nerve agents (GA and GB) down to 0.001 mg/m3.[32]

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