On Saturday, July 20, the French Air Force’s Reaper fleet passed the symbolic milestone of 30,000 flight hours, combining missions carried out in French airspace as well as those flown on Operation Barkhane in the Sahel.
Airmen of the 1/33 "Belfort" Drone Squadron, based at Air Base 709 at Cognac, operate in shifts day and night to ensure round-the-clock surveillance of national territory. The Reaper drone supports other air assets used for the permanent airspace security mission, which is operational 24/7.
Deployed in Niamey since January 2014 to support French operations in the Sahel-Saharan belt, Reaper drone crews also provide surveillance, intelligence and direct intervention capabilities in support of the Barkhane force. The unique experience of these aviators and the quality of its sensors make the Reaper drone an indispensable and decisive element, both upstream and during the conduct of air and ground operations.
The 1/33 "Belfort" Drone Squadron will receive two Reaper Block 5 systems between the end of 2019 and early 2020. By 2030 at the latest, these Reaper will be supplemented by four European MALE UAV systems, which are designed to be interoperable with other drones, and integrated into the Future Combat Air System (SCAF).