On March 24, 2016, a Harfang drone operated by the 1/33 "Belfort" drone squadron of the French air force took off from Air Base 709 at Cognac to take part in Exercise Serpentex, which took place in Corsica from March7 to March 25, 2016.
During 16 hours, crews made up of pilots, intelligence officers and image analysts took turns to pilot the drone to accomplish their mission. They gathered and transmitted the necessary information to the command center of this major exercise, and then guided the fighters during simulated firings.
During missions carried out in France, the navigation of a Harfang drone is carried out in the same way as for an "inhabited" aircraft. From a cockpit parked on Cognac air base, the drone pilot uses the aircraft’s radio to communicate with air traffic controllers.
To date, the Harfang drones have flown over 15,000 flight hours. Besides their intense commitment in the context of external operations (OPEX) in Afghanistan, Libya and the Sahel, they have also participated since 2008 in numerous operational missions in-country, as well as many exercises.
Successors to Harfang, the Reaper drones are now involved in most major overseas deployments, demonstrating every day the extent of the capability of these critical systems which are operated by qualified and experienced staff.
Since commissioning in February 2014, they Reaper fleet already totals over 9,000 operational flight hours.