Tag Archives: Bamako

[Video] Extreme low altitude flight over Mali aboard French Special Forces helicopter

Enjoy the view from inside the cabin of a Cougar helicopter, sitting next to the gunner, on an extreme low altitude mission over Mali.

Four Cougar helicopters along with three Tigre attack choppers of the 5e Régiment d’Hélicoptères de Combat (5e RHC), were deployed to Bamako, Mali, since the beginning stages of Operation Serval.

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[Video] French Air Force Mirage F1 air-to-air firing campaign

The following cool video shows the Mirage F1 jets of the Escadron de Reconnaissance 2/33 “Savoie” of the French Air Force from Mont-de-Marsan involved in their last air-to-air firing campaign from Solenzara airbase, in Corsica.

The FAF Mirage F1CR jets operating out of Bamako, Mali, have been involved since the beginning in Operation Serval, the French Air War in West Africa.

Dernière campagne de tir air-air pour les… di armee-de-l_air

Whilst the French Air Force is currently using the plane as a reconnaissance and attack platform in the Mali Air War, the Spanish Air Force plans to decommission the Dassault Mirage F1 in 2013.

Mirage F1

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Mali Air War update

Not much media footage is coming out of Mali and the only means to get interesting updates about what is going in West Africa is through the images and videos released by the French Armed Forces.

After showing the world the drone camera footage of the Foreign Legion paradrop over Timbuktu few days ago, here’s some video showing French Tigre helicopter gunships attacking targets inside Mali.

French forces have now taken the airports at both Timbuktu and Gao: once on the ground the troops met very little resistance from rebels and quickly gained control of the airport at Timbuktu whereas Malian forces secured the area. It was found that the runway at Timbuktu was littered with obstacles so much so the French had to para drop the 17th Airborne Engineer Regiment and its equipment to clear the obstacles and return the runway to active use and the ability to receive air traffic.

Timbuktu airport has a runway that is just under 7,000 feet long, more than enough to operate Transall flights.

17e RGB paradrop over Timbuktu

Image credit: French Armed Forces

Air operations are continuing from N’Djamena (Chad), Bamako (Mali) and Dakar (Senegal) with three U.S. KC-135 Tankers usually based at RAF Mildenhall, in the UK, operating since the weekend from Moron Air Base (Spain).

Fitted with the hose and drogue system to “serve” probe equipped combat planes, the aircraft are believed to cross the Algerian airspace to get into the area and refuel Rafale and Mirage jets.

As already explained, a RAF Sentinel R1 is operating out of Dakar, Senegal also, although no further information with regards to it actually being used has come out. The British ISR platform should perform the same role it played in Libya.

Along with the RAF’s C-17s and the Canadian C-17,  U.S. Globemaster airlifters have also joined in and Sweden will also supply 40 flight hours of a C-17 based at Pápa airbase, Hungary, through NATO Strategic Airlift Capability,  to help France move troops and equipment to Mali.

Belgium has also supplied two Agusta 109 helicopters which have been modified for MEDEVAC operations and are due to leave Moelsbroek on Jan. 30 aboard a chartered IIluyshin IL-76 heading for Bamako.

The UK has also said it will send 300 troops to train local forces, whereas Italian Government has not yet approved the plan to commit three planes, including a KC-767A tanker, to the Mali operation.

Written with David Cenciotti

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Nigerian gunships, European airlifters (and weaponized U.S. drones) join Mali Air War

Here’s the latest (unofficial) Order of Battle of the Mali Air War.

Dealing with the French contingent of Operation Serval:

  • 4x Rafale Air, 5x C-135FR, 1x A310, 1x C130, 3x C-160 Transal, 3x Mirage 2000D, 1x CN235 at N’Djamena, Chad
  • 2x Mirage F1CR, 8x Gazelle, 3x Mirage 2000D, 4x Super Puma, 3x Tigre helos at Bamako, Mali
  • 2x Harfang drones at Niamey, Niger
  • 5x French Navy’s Atlantique II MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) at Dakar, Senegal, performing ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance)

After chartering a Volga Dnepr An-124 and an Il-76 with Belarus registration, the French have used an An-225 Mriya, world’s biggest airlifter, to carry troops and equipment from Istres, to Bamako. The first round trip saw the aircraft returning to Istres (possibly to be loaded again) on Jan. 24.

The U.S. DoD has been supporting the French operation with five C-17 Globemaster II cargo planes (the same kind of plane dispatched by the Royal Canadian Air Force and by the UK’s Royal Air Force). Actually, one of the American airlifters was spotted in Mauritania on Jan. 16, well before Washington officially stepped in.

Noteworthy, according to ACIG‘s Editor Tom Cooper, along with the unarmed RQ-1 and RQ-4B Global Hawk, the U.S. Air Force is currently flying weaponized MQ-1 Predator drones over Mali.

The Italian Air Force is sending two C-130J cargos, belonging to the 46^ Brigata Aerea from Pisa, and one Boeing KC-767A tanker, from the 14° Stormo at Pratica di Mare, to Mali as well. The latter can be used as a strategic airlifter too.

Other airlifters are being provided by Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and UAE.

About 60 airlift missions have been flown so far to support the build-up phase of the Mali war by France and partner countries.


The Nigerian Air Force has deployed two Alpha Jet light attack planes (NAF 455 and NAF 452) from the domestic wing of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to Niamey, in Niger, where they will be based during the Mali operations.

The Nigerians have deployed Mi-35 gunships from Nigeria to Mali in the last few days.


Image credit: Wiki

The Nigerian Army deployment to Mali was supported by NAF C-130 aircraft that have airlifted personnel and equipment.

Noteworthy, after conducting an attack on a camp possibly used by smugglers close to the border with Chad and Sudan on Dec. 18, the Free Libyan Air Force reportedly struck an alleged AQIM convoy of four vehicles originated from Mali, that had entered Libya from Niger.

In the meanwhile, the French Air Force has released the first videos of the air strikes in Mali.

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Video shows French Mirage, Rafale combat planes at work in Mali Air War

With information officially released by the French MoD becoming scarce (and reporters from all around the world either embedded with Paris Special Forces or simply stationed around the main bases in West Africa, being denied the possibility to provide much details about the ongoing Operation Serval for OPSEC issues) the only way to get a glimpse of what is going on in Mali Air War is almost exclusively through the images and footage of the French Air Force’s Sirpa Air.

In this post you can watch a video of the Mirage F1CR, moved from N’Djamena to Bamako to undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties from the airport of Mali capital town, and the Rafale Air multirole jets refueling during a strike mission.

The current unconfirmed Order of Battle of the French forces in Mali (as of Jan. 16) is made of:

  • 4x Rafale, 2x C-135FR, 1x A310, 1x C130, 3x C-160 Transal, 4x Mirage 2000D, 1x CN235 at N’Djamena, Chad
  • 2x Mirage F1CR, 8x Gazelle, 4x Super Puma at Bamako, Mali

Rafale over Mali

Image credit: FAF

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