Historical Camouflages – French “Operation Barkhane”


This year, the French Bastille Day celebrations will be dedicated to Operation Barkhane, the French military intervention against radical Islamists in Sahel. To that end, we’ve prepared camouflages and decals. And, of course, one skin.


French VBL, Operation Barkhane

But first, a little bit of history. Africa’s Sahel region – south of the Sahara desert – has been a troubled place for a long time. The decolonization and the subsequent collapse of various independence movements and armed groups were followed by the rise of radical Islamism. Some groups (such as the Nigerian Boko Haram) became truly infamous by committing all sorts of atrocities, including mass murders. To combat the influence and tactics of such warbands, a group of West-African countries called G5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, all former French), requested aid and France obliged.

France had been successfully fighting the Islamist in Mali since 2013 (Operation Serval) and was willing to provide support and training for the beleaguered government troops. The operation was named Barkhane after a type of crescent-shaped sand dune.


French VBL, Operation Barkhane

However, in one of the least developed and politically stable regions on the planet, eliminating terrorists proved to be just as difficult as eliminating freedom fighters decades earlier. While the deployed elements of the Foreign Legion and the French Army fought valiantly, eliminating a considerable number of terrorists in the process, the insurgency only intensified, especially in Mali where the French were based. The units only used relatively light armor, including the VBCI APCs and the VBL light vehicles, both providing protection against light weapons only and proving vulnerable to ambushes and IEDs.

The French would use relatively careful tactics, only striking confirmed targets while attempting to limit civilian suffering wherever they could. But it was not enough.


French VBL in Afghanistan

The operation effectively ended with the 2021 Mali coup d’état, at which point the French decided to scale the aid back and withdraw. Operation Barkhane officially ended on November 8, 2022. For the cost of over 50 French lives and several billion Euros, the French and their allies managed to eliminate many terrorists (estimates reach from roughly 500 to well over 2000) but failed to prevent the spread of extremism across the region. Almost immediately after the coup, the French were “replaced” in Mali by Russian mercenaries (including the infamous Wagner Group), putting the French future in the region in question.


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The skin “Opération Barkhane” we have prepared for you this year is for the VBL Tier 5 AFV. It corresponds to a French VBL used by the forces located in Mali in 2017. The vehicle belonged to the 1st Parachute Hussar Regiment.


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We will also have two camouflages for you.

Mali doesn’t typically use that much camouflage. The Mali camouflage we have for you today was seen on a captured Shilka during the Battle of Konna that took place in northern Mali in the January of 2013. The insurgents forced initially the regular army to retreat only to be driven out of the city by the French Special Forces and army of Mali a week later.


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The French Expeditionary camouflage is a modification of the classic French pattern that we also have in the game by adding a stripe of sand color across it. This particular pattern was seen in Afghanistan but has also appeared during Operation Barkhane.


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And last but not least, we’ll have four decals for you:

  • Operation Barkhane emblem
  • Flag of Mali emblem
  • Flag of Burkina Faso emblem
  • French Sword emblem (appearing as a separate symbol on Operation Barkhane vehicles)

We hope that you’ll enjoy the content and, as always:

See you on the battlefield!

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