The French Air Force has announced that its Harfang unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have flown 2 000 hours over Mali as part of Operation Serval.
The aircraft have been deployed since January 17 in support of the French operations in Mali, logging two thousand hours in seven months. The Harfang detachment is from Drone Squadron 1/33 Belfort based in Niger.
The Harfang UAVs accompanied the French forces who liberated Douentza and supported Special Forces operations as well as airborne troops over Timbuktu. The aircraft has provided a decisive contribution to the troops engaged in the recapture of northern Mali, in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.
Making a substantial contribution to the collection of information in theatre through its sensors and its persistence in the area, Harfang also used its detection capabilities to help the aircraft of the French air force and Marine Nationale to acquire and engage enemy targets, the French ministry of defence said.
Thanks notably to its onboard laser illuminator, UAV crews also guided precision bombs fired by other aircraft to their targets.
The EADS Harfang (based on the IAI Heron) medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV has an endurance of over 20 hours – one flew for 26 hours between January 25 and 26. After Afghanistan and Libya, the Sahel desert is the third theatre to which the unarmed Harfang has been deployed.
About 3,200 French military personnel are currently deployed in Mali, and are pursuing their mission to secure the nation’s territory by weakening terrorist groups, and to support the transfer of territory to foreign troops belonging to MINUSMA, according to the French Air Force.