July 16, 2012:
On July 5th, French warplanes (two Mirage 2000Ds) flew the last French combat missions in Afghanistan (to escort a truck convoy). French warplanes have been operating over Afghanistan since October 2001, when French recon and electronic warfare aircraft, operating from Persian Gulf bases, flew missions over Western Afghanistan. A month later, the French carrier De Gaulle began flying missions from off the Pakistani coast. In 2006, some French warplanes were first stationed in Manas air base, leased from Tajikistan (Afghanistan's northern neighbor) and a year later France began basing aircraft in Western Afghanistan.
There were rarely more than a dozen French warplanes in the area at one time. French aircraft mainly flew recon and escort missions. This amounted to 7,200 sorties (26,000 flight aircraft). While 380 sorties resulted in French aircraft using bombs or cannon fire, in 1,500 instances low, high-speed passes over hostile gunmen was sufficient to protect friendly forces.
These "low and loud" passes were a favorite tactic with most warplanes in Afghanistan. Few Taliban were left unaffected by such tactics, especially in those rare cases where a B-1B bomber was involved.
Five years ago France also used Afghanistan to obtain some combat experience for its new Rafale jet fighter. Six of these were sent to Afghanistan. Three French Air Force Rafale F2s operated from Tajikistan. From there, the Rafales could fly down to Afghanistan and make themselves useful. Three navy Rafale F2s arrived on the carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was operating off the Pakistani coast. The F2 version has the hardware and software required for precision bombing (laser or GPS guided smart bombs).