France Goes Shopping for US Drones Congress has approved two for Mali military operations By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff Posted May 19, 2013 1:40 PM CDT 8 comments Comments An MQ-9 Reaper. (AP Photo/Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt, US Air Force, File) (Newser) – France is looking to assemble a fleet of intelligence gathering drones to use in its military operations in Mali, and is in talks with both the US and Israel to get its hands on some. The Pentagon has already approved the sale of two Reaper drones (Congress still needs to sign off on the deal) to France, but it's hoping to buy as many as seven, Reuters reports. Each Reaper costs about $385 million from privately-held US defense contractor General Atomics. France first intervened in northern Mali to fight Islamist rebels in January with the intention of a speedy exit, but has ended up adding 1,500 troops and pushing back its departure, as the rebels have moved to the mountains and are now engaging in guerrilla attacks, RT reports. The plan now is to pull out all but 1,000 troops in the area, and use the drones to make up for the difference, adds DefenseNews. "What’s important is to have the first two [Reapers] to plug the capability gap," says a French official.