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Operation Leopard (La légion saute sur Kolwezi)

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Operation Leopard
(La légion saute sur Kolwezi)
La legion saute sur Kolwezi Poster.jpg
Original French Poster
Country FRA.jpg France
Directed by Raoul Coutard
Release Date 1980
Language French
Studio SNC
Bela Productions
Main Cast
Character Actor
Pierre Delbart Bruno Cremer
Annie Debruyn Mimsy Farmer
Phillipe Damrémont Laurent Malet
Ambassader Berthier Jacques Perrin
Colonel Grasser Pierre Vaneck
Colonel Dubourg Robert Etcheverry
Adjudant-chef Fédérico Giuliano Gemma

Operation Leopard (original title La légion saute sur Kolwezi, "The Legion jumps in Kolwezi") is a 1980 French war movie directed by Raoul Coutard. It depicts the Battle of Kolwezi in Zaire in May 1978. A large number of European and local citizens of a mining town of Kolwezi were held as hostages and partially massacred by Katanga rebels. A Franco-Belgian airborn operation ("Operation Léopard") was organised, and paratroopers of French 2nd Parachute Regiment of French Foreign Legion and Belgian Paracommando Regiment liberated the town and saved the hostages. The movie is mainly based on memoirs of French officer Pierre Sergent and follows the real events quite closely.

The following weapons were used in the film Operation Leopard (La légion saute sur Kolwezi):


Mle 1892 Revolver

Marcel Debruyn (Pierre Rousseau), the chief manager of the mining company in Kolwezi, owns an Mle 1892 Revolver. Later it is seen in hands of his son Georges (uncredited) and the local medic Bia Kombo (Gérard Essomba).

Modele d’Ordonnance Mle 1892 Revolver - 8 x 27mm SR
Marcel Debruyn shows the revolver to his son.
Georges holds the revolver.
Bia Kombo with the revolver.

MAC Mle 1950

French officers and warrant officers carry MAC Mle 1950 pistols. They are mostly seen in holsters.

French MAS Mle 1950 pistol - 9x19mm Parabellum
An officer and two radio operators carry pistols in holsters.
A radio operator holds a pistol.

Unidentified revolver

In one scene a Katanga fighter carries a nickel plated revolver in holster.

A man at the right carries a revolver in holster.

Submachine Guns


Many French paratroopers and some Katanga fighters are armed with MAT-49 SMGs.

MAT-49 Submachine Gun - 9x19mm
A Katanga fighter with MAT-49.
One of the members of the firing squad is armed with a MAT-49.
A Katanga fighter searches for escaped Europeans.
Adjudant-chef (Sgt. Maj.) Fédérico (Giuliano Gemma) with MAT-49.
Fédérico in action with his MAT-49.

Rifles and Assault Rifles


Most French paratroopers are armed with MAS-49/56 rifles. Some of these rifles are used to fire rifle grenades.

MAS-49/56 - 7.5x54mm French
A sentinel at the entrance in the barracs of 2nd Paratrooper Regiment holds a MAS-49 with bayonet.
Paratroopers with MAS-49/56 rifles.
A paratrooper holds a MAS-49/56 with a rifle grenade.
Niokolo (Joseph Momo) fires a rifle grenade.
The same scene after the grenade is shot.
A soldier in ambush with a MAS-49/56 with a rifle grenade.
A paratrooper fires his rifle.
Niokolo fires an AT rifle grenade at an enemy armoured car.


Most Katanga fighters are armed with AKMs.

AKM, Stamped Steel Receiver w/ slant muzzle brake - 7.62x39mm
La legion saute sur Kolwezi-AK-8.jpg
A Katanga fighter with AKM in Delbart's house.
La legion saute sur Kolwezi-AK-5.jpg
A Katanga fighter threatens Annie Debruyn.
A Katanga fighter is shot by a French sniper.


Katanga fighters are also armed with East German MPi-KM rifles, distinguishable by their hybrid plastic / wooden handguards and plastic stocks.

East German MPi-KM with fixed stock - 7.62x39mm. This was the "transitional" MPi-KM that still used the wooden lower hand grip from the early MPi-KM. These were common from 1965-1972. The Side folding stock was not widely distributed until 1973.
A Katanga fighter with a MPi-KM enters Debruyn's house.
La legion saute sur Kolwezi-AK-9.jpg
A Katanga fighter searches the hotel for escaped Europeans.
A close view of the MPi-KM.
A firing squad with MAT-49, MPi-KM and FN FAL.


Belgian paratroopers are armed with FN FAL rifles. Due to unclear reason, all these rifles are seen unloaded. Some of Katanga fighters also carry FN FALs. Different versions of FAL are seen, with wooden and black furniture.

FN FAL "G Series" - 7.62x51mm NATO
FN FAL 50.00 - 7.62x51mm NATO
A tall African at the left carries an FN FAL with wooden furniture.
A Katanga fighter carries an FN FAL with black furniture.
A Katanga fighter with FN FAL stops Phillipe Damrémont when he tries to escape.
A Belgian paratrooper at the left holds a FAL. Note the lack of the magazine.
A Katanga fighter with a FAL is seen through the sniper scope.
Belgian paratroopers with FALs escort the evacuate Europeans.


Zairian government troops in Kolwezi are armed with M16A1 assault rifles. In one scene Pierre Delbart (Bruno Cremer) stores an M16, taken from the slain soldier, and later uses it during the battle for the town.

M16A1 with 20 round magazine - 5.56x45mm
A Katanga fighter with a captured M16 in hands escorts the Europeans to the so called "people's tribunal".
Pierre Delbart draws the hidden M16.
La legion saute sur Kolwezi-M16-4.jpg
Delbart in action.


French snipers are armed with MAS FR F1 rifles. In reality the Kolwezi operation was the first using of newly introduced FR F2 sniper rifles.

MAS FR F1 Sniper Rifle - 7.5mm French
A sniper aims his rifle, using bipod.
A sniper holds the rifle with folded bipod.
Murat (Eric Sergent) aims his FR F1.
Another close view of the rifle.
A sniper with FR F1 is seen on the promotion still.

Berthier Mle 1916

In one scene two Berthier Mle 1916 carbines are seen on the wall of the office of high-rank Zairian general.

Berthier Model 1916 Carabine - 8x50R mm
La legion saute sur Kolwezi-Berthier-1.jpg

Machine Guns


MAS AA-52 machine guns are used by French paratroopers.

MAS AA-52 GPMG - 7.5x54mm French
A paratrooper at the foreground carries an AA-52.
AA-52 in action.
A view from the back.
A close view of the belt.
A paratrooper aims his machine gun at a target on a rooftop.

Unidentified machine gun

Two Berliet light APCs, used by Katanga fighters, are armed with unidentified machine guns. During the actual event, the rebels used captured Panhard AMLs.

Machine guns, mounted on APCs, fire at descending paratroopers.
Another view of the same scene.

Other Weapons

LRAC F1 Rocket Launcher

French paratroopers use several LRAC F1 rocket launchers, in full accordance with the actual events.

LRAC F1 - 89mm
A paratrooper runs with a LRAC F1 launcher.
A paratrooper with LRAC F1.
He aims at an enemy armoured car.
A view from behind.


In one scene a rocket launcher that looks like Panzerschreck is briefly seen in hands of a Katanga fighter.

RPzB 54 "Panzerschreck" rocket launcher - 88mm
A Panzerschreck is seen in the window.

APAV 40 Rifle Grenade

Some French paratroopers fire APAV 40 anti-personnel rifle grenades with their MAS-49/56 rifles.

A paratrooper holds a MAS-49/56 with an APAV 40 rifle grenade.
Niokolo (Joseph Momo) fires an APAV 40 anti-personnel rifle grenade.

STRIM 65 Rifle Grenade

Some French paratroopers fire STRIM 65 AT rifle grenades with their MAS-49/56 rifles.

Niokolo fires a STRIM 65 AT rifle grenade at an enemy armoured car.

X F1 Hand Grenade

All French soldiers and officers carry hand grenades that appear to be X F1 training grenades (identified by the blue color) with Mle 1935 fuze. Some Katanga fighters also use these grenades.

X F1 practice grenade
A shot Katanga fighter drops a grenade.
Adjudant-chef Fédérico (Giuliano Gemma) carries two grenades.
Capt. Maurois (Jean-Claude Bouillon) carries two grenades.

81-mm mortar

French paratroopers use several mortars during the battle for Kolwezi. They appear to be of 81-mm caliber, most likely of French origin.

The paratroopers carry the baseplate and the bipod. The shape of the baseplate matches several models of French mortars.
The mortar in action on the promotion still.


Two dismounted tank turrets, supposedly used as last-ditch pillboxes, are seen near the building of Zairian ministry of defence.

AMX-13 turret.
M4 Sherman turret.

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