French Army Revives Medieval Star Fort Patterns in North Africa

Two French military bases in Mali are roughly based on 350-year-old star-shaped fortresses.
Chris Young
A Vauban-style French military base at Labbezanga, MaliDefensionem

The French army has been dealing with an Islamist insurgency in Mali ever since the North African country requested military assistance in 2013.

Now, new images from Mali show that the French military has resorted to medieval tactics as part of its operations in the country, Defensionem reports.

The French have built bases in an approximation of the Vauban style, which had fortifications and their outlying moats built in a start shape so as to reduce the amount of cover attackers could provide breaches.


Employing the Vauban style in Mali

France's Operation Barkhane in Mali involves approximately 4,000 French troops deployed to fight the insurgency involving Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram, Ansar Dine, and Ansaru.

The French have built several bases, from which they patrol and operate, including some in the Vauban style.

The Vauban style was developed by medieval French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. The concept utilized a star-shaped design that made it more difficult for attackers to lead a unified assault against the fortifications.

The photos, published by Defensionem, show two French Army forts in Mali designed in the Vauban style. The small base (below) is at Meneka and the larger one is located at Labbezanga.

French Army Revives Medieval Star Fort Patterns in North Africa
Source: Defensionem

As per Popular Mechanics, the five-point pentagon forts with arrow-shaped fighting positions known as redan were built by France's 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment.

Modernizing a medieval military style

As Defensionem points out, Vauban style fortifications essentially became obsolete and were replaced by linear forts with the advent of modern artillery at the turn of the 19th century. 

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However, as the French military is showing, the shape is still useful for defending against insurgents attacking on foot. As can be seen in the images, each bastion of the French bases has a wide field of view. 

What's more, thanks to modern automatic weapons, two bastions can easily lend each other support fire. While certainly more of an advanced employment of a medieval military method, this does remind us of the tactics used by civilians in 2019's Hong Kong protests.

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