The War in Libya has not ended yet, but seven months after the beginning of the conflict the French Ministry of defense is summarizing the ammunition it spent through the conflict. According to the French Ministry of defense, from 19 March to 30 September 2011, the Air Force and Navy (the Charles de Gaulle carrier air group and maritime patrols) spent 20,000 operational flight hours on roughly 4,500 missions. THese missions represent 25% of the total operational missions carried out y the coalition forces and 35% of the offensive missions over Libya, hitting 750 military targets. French combat helicopters performed the majority (90%) of coalition helicopter combat missions over Libya, claiming 550 targets destroyed. According to Mr. Gérard Longuet, Secretary of Defense and Veterans Affairs, 950 guided guided bomb were dropped by French Air Force and Navy Rafale and Mirage 2000s, these included an unspecified number of laser guided bombs and 240 air-launched missiles – including 15 SCALP cruise missiles and 225 GPS guided Hammers (AASM); in addition, French helicopters have launched 431 HOT missiles. The French Navy vessels have also fired 3,000 rounds from 100mm and 76 mm guns. Other ordnance used included an unspecified number of rockets fired by helicopters and naval vessels.

A two-seater Rafale M23 carrying a SCALP cruise missile takes off from the the aircraft carrier Charles De gaule on a strike mission over Libya, March 23-24th 2011. Photo: French MOD

Overall, at the beginning of the campaign, Rafale crews preferred to use the GPS guided munitions due to the higher reliability, longer range (particularly important to drop the weapons out of the range of Libyan air defenses). While the Rafales were carrying four to six Hammer weapons, they were usually flying mixed formations with Mirage 2000D, carrying two LGBs and the Damocles targeting pod. SCALP weapons were spent only on one or two sorties, primarily by Navy Rafales against the Libyan military airbase of Al-Jufra (Hun).

Despite the extensive use of bombs, French aircraft ordnance maker Société des Ateliers Mécaniques de Pont sur Sambre (SAMP) is shutting down production because of dwindling domestic orders. In fact, the last order worth 9 million Euros for 1,200 Km82 warheads was announced by the French defense procurement agency (DGA) in 2009 was part of the economic recovery plan, replenishing stocks ahead of schedule originally set for 2014.

Former French Defence Minister, Hervé Morin visiting SAMP production center at Pont-sur-Sambre in 2009. Two years later, the company decided to close shop...

As the exclusive supplier to the French Air Force and Fleet Air Arm and several French export customers, SAMP has been a builder and prime contractor of general-purpose “dumb” bombs for more than 50 years. However, competition from the U.S. has increased since France standardized its aerial ordnance to meet NATO standards, while shifting to high precision weapons meant lower volumes of ordnance consumed. SAMP is the principal warhead supplier for Sagem, for their HAMMER (AASM) weapon which could be looking elsewhere for suppliers if the Rafale and a French origin weapon suite are selected in India or Brazil. The French military could rely on bombs imported form the U.S., while for export, cooperation with Israel’s IMI has been in discussion for years.

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