|Mirage F1CR and Rafale over Mali.|
David Cinciotti posted this at his excellent blog, The Aviationist. These are the lessons the French have learnt from the Mali air war, so far.
Here's the gist of it:
- More UAVs are needed for surveillance and occasional strike missions.
- The French lack aerial refuelling and have to rely on American and other foreign tanker assets. This was the same plan in place for Canadian F-35s.
- The Rafale has been quite competent, but it's cost per flight hour is too high, along with the Mirage 2000. The smaller, simpler Mirage F1CR has managed to bring that average down.
- With the majority of targets being "soft", there is little need for large loads of heavy bombs. Simple, unguided 500lb bombs are often all that is needed.
Basically, what France has learned, is that, for situations like Mali, it doesn't need a high-tech, high-cost, heavy fighter. What it needs is a fighter that can do the job cheaply and easily, and support that fighter with UAVs and the proper aerial refuelling assets.
Hmmm... That seems familiar.
[Fun fact: Part of the RAF's contribution to Operation: Serval is the Raytheon Sentinel R1, built on a Canadian made Bombardier Global Express business jet.]