PARIS --- The French army is upgrading the armored vehicle component of Operation Barkhane, its task force operating against Daesch in Mali, the French Ministry of Defense announced March 16.
A batch of 16 improved VBCI eight-wheeled infantry combat vehicles, it the latest, 32-tonne variant fitted with additional armor kits, is the first step in the renewal of deployed vehicles. They provide improved protection for embarked personnel and crews against mines and improvised explosive devices, while substantially improving mobility, payload, range and observation capabilities.
In addition, all of the six-wheeled Véhicules de l’Avant Blindé (VAB) of the Groupement Tactique Désert-Infanterie (Tactical Desert Group-Infantry, of GTD-I) are to be replaced by the summer by the latest “Ultima” (VAB-U) variants.
The service introduction of two additional Reaper unmanned aircraft, which were recently deployed into the theater, means that five such medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft are available.
Their capability of flying very long missions is a major operational asset, both in support of troops on the ground and for reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions.
The two additional aircraft will allow an increase in the mission tempo, and thus an increased coverage of the operational theater.