The French Air Force bought 20 ex-USN AD-4s as well as 88 ex-USN AD-4Ns and five ex-USN AD-4NAs with the former three-seaters modified as single-seat aircraft with removal of the radar equipment and the two operator stations from the rear fuselage. The AD-4N/NAs were initially acquired in 1956 to replace aging Republic P-47 Thunderbolts in Algeria.
The Skyraiders were first ordered in 1956 and the first was handed over to the French Air Force on 6 February 1958 after being overhauled and fitted with some French equipment by Sud-Aviation. The aircraft were used until the end of the Algerian war. The aircraft were used by the 20e Escadre de Chasse (EC 1/20 “Aures Nementcha,” EC 2/20 “Ouarsenis” and EC 3/20 “Oranie”) and EC 21 in the close air support role armed with rockets, bombs and napalm.
The Skyraiders had only a short career in Algeria. But they nonetheless proved to be the most successful of all the ad hoc COIN aircraft deployed by the French. Eventually the Armée de l’Air had a total of 113 Skyraiders made up of 20 AD-4s, 88 AD-4Ns and 5 three-seater AD-4NAs, which were all converted into single seat AD-4Ns with French equipment installed by Sud-Aviation. They were to be used for Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations armed with bombs, rockets and napalm. Skyraider BuNo124143 was one of eight donated and delivered to the Armée de l’Air Gabonaise (Gabon Air Force) in 1972 with the serial TR-KFP. They were operated by the Gabon Presidential Guard and flown by French mercenaries. France also donated 15 Skyraiders to Cambodia in 1965. Following use by the Armée de l’Air, six were donated to Chad where they were flown by an independent local air force manned by French mercenaries between 1976 and 1984. They also flew under the French flag in Djibouti and on the island of Madagascar. The last Skyraider to be operated by the French Air Force was AD-4N/BuNo 126965, which had returned in 1976 after seeing action in Chad, and made its final military flight at Bordeaux in September 1979.The aircraft also operated under the French flag in Djibouti and on the island of Madagascar. When France at last relinquished the Skyraiders it passed the survivors on to client states, including Gabon, Chad, Cambodia and the Central African Republic. (several aircraft from Gabon and Chad have been recovered recently by French warbird enthusiasts and entered on the French civil register).
The French frequently used the aft station to carry maintenance personnel, spare parts and supplies to forward bases. In Chad they even used the aft station for a “bombardier” and his “special stores” – empty beer bottles – as these were considered as non-lethal weapons, thus not breaking the government-imposed rules of engagement, during operations against Libyan-supported rebels in the late 1960s and early 1970s.