The Reapers were again deployed in the subsequent Operation Barkhane (2014), which covered the Sahel region in Northern Africa. Impressed with the Reapers’ performance, France was committed to acquire nine additional Reapers by 2019. On the 5th of September 2017, French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, announced the decision to arm French surveillance drones, beginning with the Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) MQ-9 Reapers operated by the Air Force 1/33 Belfort Drone Squadron. However, the French Ministry of Defense has not taken a legal position on how to use the armed drones. Notably, there has been little public opposition against armed drone operations by France, while there should be a strong concern about how the armed drones will be used.
In December 2019, France launched its first drone attack in Mali. Since December, France has carried out air strikes several times with the drones. These strikes are reported on the website of the Ministry of Defence.
Besides acquiring, arming and deploying its drone fleet, France is also actively collaborating with other EU member states, within the ‘Drones Users Club’ and the ‘Joint Users Club’ of MQ-9 Reapers. In addition, France is collaborating with Germany and Italy to develop a European Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance drone to decrease its dependence on the United States and Israel as drone producers. Furthermore, French Aerospace manufacturer Dassault has taken the lead in developing the nEUROn (an experimental combat drone) which has joined together with British BAE Systems on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project. Additionally, in July 2017, France and Germany announced their agreement to ‘jointly develop a future combat air system’.