Dec 21, 2013
France to use unarmed U.S.-made drones to hunt al Qaeda in Mali
France will deploy its first U.S.-made unarmed surveillance drones to West Africa by the end of the year, as it seeks to "eliminate all traces of al Qaeda".
France's military intervention in Mali in January exposed its shortage of surveillance drones suitable for modern warfare, forcing it to rely on the United States to provide French commanders with intelligence from drones based in neighboring Niger.
Paris said in June it would buy 12 Reaper reconnaissance drones built by privately owned U.S. firm General Atomics to eventually replace its EADS-made Harfang drones.
Niger gave permission in January for U.S. surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in the region.
France intervened in Mali at the start of the year as Islamist forces, who seized control of the north in the confusion following a military coup in March 2012, pushed towards the capital Bamako.