First Rafale sorties of Operation Serval over Mali - RAF C-17 cargo drop, Mirage 2000 D detachment to Bamako
Rafale at N'Djamena airport, Chad
"...Air Force commanders had just 48 hours to prepare the first Rafale strike against jihadists in Mali and it was mission accomplished. The French Air Force made a big splash Sunday morning. "A perfect mission. Few air forces could have deployed such a strike force in such a short time " stated the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Denis Mercier. Flying their first sorties under the umbrella of Operation Serval, Rafales destroyed a training camp, several storage depots and logistics buildings belonging to the Islamist group Mujao in Gao and Taoussa. Mission accomplished. Preparing the first Rafale sorties took all resources of the Air Force over a 48-hour period..On Friday morning, ahead of the decisions being taken at political level, the staff of the Air Force started to bring to readiness all its Rafale bases, ie Al Dhafra in the UAE, Mont-de-Marsan and Saint-Dizier. By late evening, a strike against jihadist bases was decided. It was to be flown from air base 113, Saint-Dizier. Shortly before midnight, the type of strike to be flown was confirmed. All day Saturday was spent equipping and arming four Rafales at Saint-Dizier. A further two aircraft from Mont-de-Marsan were added to the strike force as eventual replacements in case of possible technical problems with the Saint-Dizier aircraft. On Saturday afternoon the pace quickened. At around 13h00 the pilots were briefed on the first four targets. They prepared the sortie using images of the targets taken by Atlantique 2 reconnaissance machines and by the Pleiades satellite system . The pilots studied their flightplans, selected their weapons. At around 6 pm the decision was taken to schedule take off for 7 am the next morning. At 10 pm , two new targets were added. The pilots incorporated them into their mission on their return to the base after snatching four hours of rest. The time was then 3:30 am, Sunday morning. They would eventually get airborne at 7:30 am. The mission lasted 9 and a half hours in total. Five in-flight refuelings, provided by C 135 tankers were required and the aircraft landed at N'Djamena airport, Chad. Attacks on Gao were quick and made with successive waves of two aircraft. In Taoussa, the strategy is different: a "compressed" attack with the four planes together. The entire operation was followed live from the operational centre of Air Force Command in Paris and the national air operations centre in Lyons...."
My translation from http://www.lalsace.fr/actualite/2013/01/16/9-h-35-en-vol
Opération Serval - a detachment of three Mirage 2000 D fighters deployed for air cover of the Mali capital Bamako on 17 January...
latest update from the French Ministry of Defence web site
" .....latest update 18-19 January...
Today aircraft deployed on Operation Serval are continuing their mission flying around ten sorties, of which half were flown by the fighter arm. Our aircraft are continuing to track the movements of terrorist groups while striking at identified ground targets in the region of Diabali..."
Du 18 janvier 18h, jusqu'au 19 janvier à 18h
Aujourd’hui, les avions de l’opération Serval ont poursuivi leurs missions avec une dizaine de sorties dont la moitié pour la chasse. Ils continuent de surveiller les mouvements des groupes terroristes tout en maintenant leurs frappes sur des cibles identifiées au sol dans la région de Diabali.
Canadian and RAF C-17s have completed their first cargo drops in Mali