What seemed to be start as a pretty intense war against the local rebels in Mali has already turned, at least momentarily, into a low intensity air campaign.
In the last 24 hours, just 8 missions against about 12 targets mainly located around Diabali were flown by the French combat aircraft supported by C135FR tankers. These included reconnaissance missions by Mirage F1CR that have reportedly relocated from N’Djamena, Chad, to Bamako, in Mali.
After releasing 21 PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) out of 24 carried (6 for each plane) on the first long range raid launched directly from France, the four Rafale jets of the EC 1/7 “Provence” and 2/30 “Normandie-Niémen” deployed to N’Djamena have carried only two or three bombs on the subsequent missions: a sign that, in spite of a “well-armed, well-trained and experienced” enemy, the amount of available targets on the ground in the last day was such that it did not require the aircraft to fly with full load of six GBU-12/49 or AASMs.
The French contigent involved in Operation Serval currently counts on two Mirage F1s, six Mirage 2000Ds, four Rafales, three C135FRs, one C-130, one C-160 and an unknown amount of choppers, including Gazelles, Pumas and possibly Tigres.
Image credit: Sirpa Air
Still, the build up continues with more countries already contributing with support forces, or about to. Among them, the UK, that has made available two C-17 airlifters (and maybe drones in the future), Denmark is sending transport aircraft, Canada that will provide one C-17, Belgium that is about to dispatch one C-130. Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritania and Senegal that will send some hundreds military.
Considering how quickly NATO depleted their stores of weapons during the Libyan affair could it be that the French are experiencing a similar problem?