France has deployed its first armed U.S.-built Reaper drones to Africa’s Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane, Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced Thursday.
Réussite des tirs d’expérimentation, l’armée française dispose désormais de drones armés. Protecteurs pour nos troupes et efficaces face à l’ennemi, ces drones contribuent à la modernisation de nos armées. https://t.co/SAsJ2Bn4kx
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) December 19, 2019
According to media reports, three armed Reaper drones were deployed for Operation Barkhane, an ongoing anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region, which commenced 1 August 2014. The operation has been designed with five countries, and former French colonies, that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
The development came around two years after the decision to arm the French Air Force’s (Armée de l’Air) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) was announced by the Minister, as part of the guidelines set by the President of the Republic.
The minister said that the primary mission of the drones will remain surveillance and intelligence acquisition, but they will be also capable of conducting strikes in compliance with the rules of engagement if an opportunity arises. The drones were initially tested from Niamey Air Base in Niger.
The Reaper drones can be armed with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bombs (LGB) and GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II 500-pound dual-mode GPS and laser-guided bombs.