The French Air and Space Force (AAE) (French: Armée de l'air et de l'espace, lit.'Army of Air and Space') is the air and space force of the French Armed Forces. Formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, it became an independent military branch in 1934 as the French Air Force. On 10 September 2020, it assumed its current name, the French Air and Space Force, to reflect an "evolution of its mission" into the area of outer space.
The founding of the Service Aéronautique began in 1909, when the French War Minister approved the purchase of a Wright Biplane. The following year, another Wright biplane, a Bleriot, and two Farmans were added to the lone acquisition. On 22 October 1910, General Pierre Roques was appointed Inspector General of what was becoming referred to as the Cinquieme Arme, or Fifth Service.
In March 1912, the French parliament enacted legislation to establish the air arm. It was projected to consist of three distinct branches based on aircraft missions—reconnaissance, bombing, or countering other aircraft.
Inventing the fighter plane
France was one of the first states to start building aircraft. At the beginning of World War I, France had a total of 148 planes (eight from French Naval Aviation (Aéronautique Navale)) and 15 airships.
In August 1914, as France entered World War I, French airpower consisted of 24 squadrons (escadrilles) supporting ground forces, including three squadrons assigned to cavalry units. By 8 October, expansion to 65 squadrons was being planned. By December, the plans called for 70 new squadrons.
Meanwhile, even as procurement efforts scaled up, inventive airmen were trying to use various light weapons against opposing airplanes. Roland Garros invented a crude method of firing a machine gun through the propeller arc by cladding his propeller with metal wedges deflecting any errant bullets. After destroying three German airplanes, Garros came down behind enemy lines on 18 April 1915. His secret weapon was thus exposed, and Anthony Fokker came up with the synchronization gear that by July 1, 1915, that turned airplanes into flying gun platforms.
Founding fighter formations
On 21 February 1916, the Verdun Offensive began. New weapons demand new tactics. Commandant Charles de Tricornet de Rose was the original French pilot, having learned to fly in March 1911. This experienced flier was given a free hand to select pilots and airplanes for a new unit tasked with keeping German observation craft from over the French lines. The ad hoc unit commandeered all available Morane-Saulniers and Nieuport 11s, as well as the 15 best pilots regardless of posting. This ad hoc unit patrolling the skies over Verdun was the first French Groupement de Chasse. The Groupement was successful despite Tricornet's death in a mishap. Under the leadership of new commander Captain Auguste de Reverand, such flying aces as Georges Guynemer, Charles Nungesser, and Albert Deullin began their careers.
Encouraged by the success of their original Groupement, the French massed several squadrons for the Battle of the Somme. The burgeoning French aircraft inventory afforded the formation of Groupement de Combat de la Somme under Captain Felix Brocard. The Groupement was formed on 1 July 1916 with a posting of four Nieuport squadrons: Squadron N.3, N.26, N.73, and N.103. Three other squadrons--Squadron N.37, N.62, and N.65 were temporarily attached at various times.
On 19 October 1916, three fixed Groupes de Combat were established, each to consist of four squadron. Numbered 11, 12, and 13, they were only the first three Groupements.
During March 1917, Groupe de Combat 14 and Groupe de Combat 15 were formed. Again, each new Groupe was assigned four Nieuport fighter squadrons; again, each was sent to support a different French field army.
On 10 January 1918, Groupe de Combat 16 was formed from four SPAD squadrons. In February, five more Groupe de Combats were founded from SPAD squadrons: Groupes de Combats number 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. The various Nieuport models were now being phased out as the new SPADs filled the inventories of the French.
With the Groupes success, the French were encouraged to amass airpower into still larger tactical units. On 4 February 1918, Escadre de Combat No. 1 was created out of Groupe de Combat 15, Groupe de Combat 18, and Groupe de Combat 19. It was followed by Escadre de Combat No. 2, formed on the 27th from Groupe de Combat 11, Groupe de Combat 13, and Groupe de Combat 17. Each groupe would be stocked with 72 fighters.
The escadres were not the end of the French accumulation of air power. On 14 May 1918, they were grouped into the Division Aerienne. As bombing aircraft were also being concentrated into larger units, the new division would also contain Escadre de Bombardement No. 12 and Escadre de Bombardement No. 13. The bombing units were both equipped with 45 Breguet 14 bombers. The last addition to the new division was five protection squadrons, operating 75 Caudron R.11 gunships to fly escort for the Breguets.
On 25 June 1918, Groupe de Combat 22 was founded. Groupe de Combat 23 followed soon thereafter. A couple of night bombardment groupes were also founded.
Committing the Division Aerienne
Then, on 15 July 1918, the Division was committed to the Second Battle of the Marne. From then on, whether in whole or in part, the Division Aerienne fought until war's end. By the time of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the French could commit 27 fighter squadrons to the effort, along with reconnaissance and bombing squadrons. The 1,137 airplanes dedicated to the battle were the most numerous used in a World War I battle.
When the 11 November 1918 armistice came, French air power had expanded to 336 squadrons, 74 of which were SPAD fighter squadrons. France had 3,608 planes in service. Confirmed claims of 2,049 destroyed enemy airplanes included 307 that had been brought down within French lines. French airmen had also destroyed 357 observation balloons. However, 5,500 pilots and observers were killed out of the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting to 31%. A 1919 newspaper article reported that the French Air Force had suffered losses of 61%.
Military aeronautics was established as a "special arm" by the law of 8 December 1922. It remained under the auspices of the French Army. It was not until 2 July 1934, that the "special arm" became an independent service and was totally independent.
The initial air arm was the cradle of French military parachuting, responsible for the first formation of the Air Infantry Groups (Groupements de l'Infanterie de l'Air) in the 1930s, out of which the Air Parachute Commandos (commandos parachutistes de l'air) descended.
The French Air Force maintained a continuous presence across the French colonial empire, particularly from the 1920s to 1943.
After 1945, France rebuilt its aircraft industry. The French Air Force participated in several colonial wars during the Empire such as French Indochina after the Second World War. Since 1945, the French Air Force was notably engaged in Indochina (1945–1954).
Accordingly, from 1962, the French political leadership shifted its military emphasis to nuclear deterrence, implementing a complete reorganisation of the Air Force, with the creation of four air regions and seven major specialised commands, among which were the Strategic Air Forces Command, COTAM, the Air Command of Aerial Defense Forces (Commandement Air des Forces de Défense Aérienne, CAFDA), and the Force aérienne tactique (FATac). In 1964, the Second Tactical Air Command was created in Nancy to take command of air units stationed in France but not assigned to NATO. The Military Air Transport Command had previously been formed in February 1962 from the Groupement d'Unités Aériennes Spécialisées. Also created in 1964 was the Escadron des Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air (EFCA), seemingly grouping all FCA units. The Dassault Mirage IV, the principal French strategic bomber, was designed to strike Soviet positions as part of the French nuclear triad.
CFAS had two squadrons of S2 and S-3 IRBMs at the Plateau d'Albion, six squadrons of Mirage IVAs (at Mont de Marsan, Cazaux, Orange, Istres, St Dizier, and EB 3/94 at Luxeuil - Saint-Sauveur Air Base), and three squadrons of C-135F, as well as a training/reconnaissance unit, CIFAS 328, at Bordeaux. The tactical air command included wings EC 3, EC 4, EC 7, EC 11, EC 13, and ER 33, with a total of 19 squadrons of Mirage III, Jaguars, two squadrons flying the Mirage 5F (EC 2/13 and EC 3/13, both at Colmar), and a squadron flying the Mirage F.1CR. CoTAM counted 28 squadrons, of which ten were fixed-wing transport squadrons, and the remainder helicopter and liaison squadrons, at least five of which were overseas. CAFDA numbered 14 squadrons mostly flying the Mirage F.1C. Two other commands had flying units, the Air Force Training Command, and the Air Force Transmissions Command, with four squadrons and three trials units.
The French Air Force entered a phase of inventory replacement and expansion. The Air Force ordered the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, then in development. By November 2016, 11 had already been delivered to ET00.061 at Orleans-Bricy, and integration of the new Dassault Rafale multi-role jet fighter was underway; the first 20-aircraft squadron became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.
On 13 July 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command, which would come into being within the French Air Force by September 2019, and the transformation of the French Air Force into the French Air and Space Force. According to Defense Minister Florence Parly, France reserves the right to arm French satellites with lasers for defensive purposes.
The official renaming occurred on 24 July 2020, with the new Air and Space Force logo unveiled on 11 September 2020.
The Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) determines French Air and Space Force doctrines application and advises the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA) on the deployment, manner, and use of the Air and Space Force. They are responsible for the preparation and logistic support of the French Air and Space Force. The CEMAA is assisted by a Deputy Chief, the Major Général de l'Armée de l'Air. Finally, the CEMAA is assisted by the Inspectorate of the French Air and Space Force (IAA) and by the French Air and Space Force Health Service Inspection (ISSAA).
The Air and Space Force is organized in accordance with Chapter 4, Title II, Book II of the Third Part of the French Defense Code (French: code de la Défense), which replaced decree n° 91-672 dated 14 July 1991.
The Air and Space Force headquarters, employing 150 personnel, are located alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff's offices (EMA) and the Army and Navy headquarters at the Balard armed forces complex in Paris. The new site replaced the former Paris Air Base (BA 117) which served as air staff headquarters until 25 June 2015.
The French Air and Space Force has had three commands: two grand operational commands (CDAOA and CFAS) and one organic command (CFA).
Air Defence and Air Operations Staff (French: État-major de la défense aérienne et des opérations aériennes) composed of the:
Air Force Operational Staff (French: État-major opérationnel Air (EMO-Air)) and the
Permanent readiness command center (French: Centre de permanence Air), both situated at the Balard complex (the French Air and Space Force main HQ)
direct reporting units:
Air Force Operations Brigade (French: Brigade aérienne des opérations (BAO)) (all units at BA 942 Lyon-Mont Verdun air base)
National Air Operations Center (French: Centre national des opérations aériennes (CNOA))
Core Joint Force Air Component HQ (Core JFAC HQ)
Analysis and Simulation Center for Air Operations Preparation (French: Centre d’analyse et de simulation pour la préparation aux opérations aériennes (CASPOA))
Air Force Operational Awareness and Planning Brigade (French: Brigade aérienne connaissance-anticipation (BACA))
Air Force Intelligence Center (French: Centre de renseignement air (CRA)) at BA 942 Lyon-Mont Verdun air base
National Target Designation Center (French: Centre national de ciblage (CNC)) at BA 110 Creil-Senlis air base
Land-based Electronic Warfare Squadron (French: Escadron électronique sol (EES)) at BA 123 Orléans-Bricy air base
Intelligence Training Squadron 20.530 (French: Escadron de formation au renseignement (EFR) 20.530) (Metz), training air and space force and naval officers, integrated in the Joint Intelligence Training Center (CFIAR) in Strasbourg
Air Force Brigade for Permanent Aerial Security Readiness (Brigade aérienne de la posture permanente de la sûreté aérienne (BAPPS)), based at BA 942 Lyon-Mont Verdun air base, created at the end of 2020 and in charge of air policing
detection and control centers:
Detection and Control Center 07.927 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Tours – Cinq-Mars-la-Pile (Codename: Raki, AOR: Northwestern France)
Detection and Control Center 04.930 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Mont-de-Marsan (Codename: Marina, AOR: Southwestern France)
Detection and Control Center 05.942 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Lyon – Mont Verdun (Codename: Rambert, AOR: Southeastern France)
Aerial Refuel Squadron 04.031 "Sologne" (Escadron de ravitaillement en vol 4/31 Sologne), winding down operations of the C-135FR
Transport Squadron 03.060 "Esterel" (Escadron de transport 3/60 Esterel), presidential air transport with the Airbus A330
Aeronautical Technical Support Squadron 15.031 "Camargue" (Escadron de soutien technique aéronautique 15.031 Camargue)
Specialised Technical Support Squadron 15.093 (Escadron de soutien technique spécialisé 15.093)
Air Forces Command (CFA)), Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base, as an organic command, prepares units to fulfill operational missions. From September 2013, the former organic commands CFA and CSFA were merged into CFA. CFA is organized in six brigades:
Airspace Control Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne de Contrôle de l'Espace (BACE)), is responsible for (Airborne early warning and control aircraft, and ground radar, ground-based air defense systems and missile defence, communication networks) airspace surveillance, constituting the Système de Commandement et de Conduite des Opérations Aérospatiales). Since 2007 the command, control and information systems network of the air and space force have been is integrated into the Joint Directorate of Infrastructure Networks and Information Systems (DIRISI))
airborne airspace surveillance units:
36th Airborne Command and Control Wing (36e escadre de commandement et de conduite aéroportés (36e EC2A)), based at Avord Air Base (BA 702)
36th Airborne Command and Control Squadron "Berry" (36eescadron de détection et de contrôle aéroportés Berry), flying the Boeing E-3F Sentry
3 surveillance and air defence radar installations equipped with the Ground Master 406 radar: années 2010 trois Ground Master 406, le premier installé en Guyane, le second sur la base aérienne de Nice en 2017 et le troisième sur la Base aérienne 942 and at Lyon-Mont Verdun Air Base (BA 942) in 2019.
12 surveillance and air defence radar installations equipped with the Ground Master 403T radar in metropolitan France, re-equipped in the 2019 - 2022 period.
airspace controle of military air bases:
units for local aerospace surveillance of the immediate environs of air bases (CLA) ;
approach radars and landing aide systems
surface-to-air missile units (each ADSA squadron is composed of two batteries of SAMP/T and one battery of Crotale NG SAMs):
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Wing - 1st Air Defence Artillery Regiment (Escadre sol-air de défense aérienne - 1er régiment d'artillerie de l'air), based at Avord Air Base (BA 702)
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Squadron 02.950 "Sancerre" (Escadron de défense sol-air 02.950 "Sancerre")
Technical Support Surface-to-Air Squadron (Escadron de soutien technique sol-air 2E.950)
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Training Center (Centre de formation de la défense sol-air 14.950)
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Squadron 01.950 "Crau" (Escadron de défense sol-air 01.950 "Crau") (Base aérienne 125 Istres-Le Tubé)
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Squadron 05.950 "Barrois" (Escadron de défense sol-air 05.950 "Barrois") (Base aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson)
Air Defence Surface-to-Air Squadron 12.950 "Tursan" (Escadron de défense sol-air 12.950 "Tursan") (Base aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan)
surface-to-air signals units in metropolitan France (METEOR system, in process of replacement by the SRSA system)
Air Force Special Forces Brigade (Brigade des forces spéciales air (BFSA)). In the 2020 - 2021 period the French Air and Space Force overhauled the force structure of its security and firefighting and rescue units, which were previously grouped together in the Air Force Security and Intervention Forces Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne des Forces de Sécurité et d'Intervention (BAFSI)).
Air Force Parachutist Commando 10 (CPA n°10) - the Air Force's primary special operations unit, based at Orléans – Bricy Air Base
Air Force Parachutist Commando 30 (CPA n°30) - previously the Air Force's primary combat search and rescue unit, refocused to special operations, based at Orléans – Bricy Air Base
force protection units:
Air Force Parachutist Commando 20 (CPA n°20) - the Air Force's primary security unit. Composed of two operational companies and a reserve platoon for a total of up to 400 personnel: Compagnie Bretagne (protection force), Compagnie Normandie (protection force) and Section de réservistes (protection force reservists and instructors).
Escadrons de protection (EP).
specialised training units:
Air Force Parachute Training Center 51.566 (C.A.S.V. 51.566 Le Centre Air de Saut en Vol), based at Orléans – Bricy Air Base
Operational Training Center for Air Force [Land] Combatants (Centre de Préparation Opérationnel des Combattants de l'Armée de l'air (CPOCAA)) - training unit for the CPA 10 and 30, based at Orange-Caritat Air Base
Detachment (détachement du CPOCAA), based at Orléans – Bricy Air Base
le Centre de formation à la survie et au sauvetage (CFSS) ;Centre de formation à la survie et au sauvetage 61.566 (CFSS). base aérienne 120 de Cazaux.
Air Force Firefighters Brigade (Brigade des pompiers de l’air (BPA)), formed in 2021. It brings together the rescue and firefighting personnel (called incident technicians and grouped into squadrons of company size) of the Air Force into 25 units of around 1 500 personnel. HQ is in Cazaux Air Base (BA 120);
Air Force Aerial Weapon Systems Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne des Systèmes d'Armes Aériens (BASAA)) provides the maintenance and repair of aerial weapons and target systems.
Air Force Maneuver Support Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne d'Appui à la Manœuvre Aérienne (BAAMA)) provides the ground-based engineer and logistics personnel (including expeditionary) needed for the sustainment of air operations., based at Bordeaux–Mérignac Air Base (BA 106):
Expeditionary Command and Control Air Force Wing 00.550 (Escadre aérienne de commandement et de conduite projetable 00.550 (EAC2P 00.550)), based at Évreux-Fauville Air Base (BA 105) and formed on August 27, 2015 on the basis of the former Groupement tactique des systèmes d’information et de communication (GTSICAéro).
Wing Command (Commandement d'escadre 00.550)
Tactical Telecommunications Systems Squadron 11.550 (Escadron des systèmes de télécommunication tactiques 11.550)
Tactical Surveillance Systems Squadron 12.550 (Escadron des systèmes de surveillance tactiques 12.550)
Tactical Information Systems Squadron 13.550 (Escadron des systèmes d’information tactiques 13.550)
Tactical Training and Expertise Squadron 14.550 (Escadron d'expertise et d'instruction tactiques 14.550)
Operational Support Air Force Wing 00.513 (Escadre aérienne d'appui aux opérations 00.513 (EAAO 00.513)), based at Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base (BA 106) and formed on November 24, 2021 on the basis of the former Groupement aérien d’appui aux opérations (GAAO).
Wing Command (Commandement d'escadre 00.513)
Operational Infrastructure Squadron 11.513 (Escadron d'infrastructure en opérations 11.513)
Operational Infrastructure Squadron 13.513 (Escadron d'infrastructure en opérations 13.513)
Operational Infrastructure Squadron 15.513 (Escadron d'infrastructure en opérations 15.513)
Expeditionary Training Squadron 17.513 (Escadron d'instruction au déploiement 17.513)
25th Air Force Engineer Regiment (25ème Régiment du Génie de l’Air), army regiment permanently attached to the air force. Based at Istres-Le Tubé Air Base (BA 125).
2nd Operational Air Force Engineer Company (2e Compagnie opérationnelle du génie de l’air (2e COGA)), based at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base (BA 118).
4th Operational Air Force Engineer Company (4e Compagnie opérationnelle du génie de l’air (4e COGA)), based at Avord Air Base (BA 702).
Aeronautical Installations Air Force Groupment (Groupement aérien des installations aéronautiques (GAIA)), based at Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base (BA 106)
Operational Preparation and Employment Division (Division préparation opérationnelle et emploi (DPOE)), Hexagone Balard, Paris
Space Operations Air Force Brigade (Brigade aérienne des opérations spatiales (BAOS)), based at Toulouse Space Center. By 2025 the CMOS and the COSMOS will relocate to Toulouse Space Center as well. In preparation for this the French Air and Space Force has formed the military installation FA 101 (Formation administrative (FA101)) on the premises of the space center.
Space Operations Command and Control Center (Centre de Commandement et de Contrôle des opérations spatiales (C3OS)), based at Toulouse Space Center
Satellite Observation Military Center 01.092 "Bourgogne" (French: Centre militaire d’observation par satellites (CMOS) 01.092 Bourgogne), based at Creil-Senlis Air Base (BA 110)
Operational Center for Military Surveillance of Space Objects (French: Centre opérationnel de surveillance militaire des objets spatiaux (COSMOS)), based at Lyon – Mont Verdun Air Base (BA 942)
These last two brigades belonged until 2013 to the Air Force Support Command (CSFA), which maintained the arms systems, equipment, information and communication systems (SIC) as well as infrastructure. The CSFA supported the human element, the military logistics (supply and transport), wherever, previously, forces of the French Air and Space Force operated or trained. These two brigades are now subordinate to the CFA.
The official designation of the service was changed in July 2019 from Air Army (Armée de l'Air) to Air and Space Army (Armée de l'air et de l'espace), when the previous joint Inter-Service Space Command (Commandement interarmées de l'espace (CIE)) under the French General Staff was transformed into the Space Command (Commandement de l'espace (CDE)) and absorbed into the Air and Space Force as its fourth command.
All air regions were disestablished on 1 January 2008. In the 1960s, there were five air regions (RA). The number was then reduced to four by a decree of 30 June 1962 with the disestablishment of the 5th Aerial Region (French North Africa). The decree of 14 July 1991 reduced the air regions to three: « RA Atlantic », « RA Mediterranean » and « RA North-East ». On 1 July 2000 was placed into effect an organization consisting of « RA North » (RAN) and « RA South » (RAS). The territorial division was abolished by decree n°2007-601 of 26 April 2007.
From 2008 to 2010 the French Air Force underwent the "Air 2010" streamlining process. The main targets of this project were to simplify the command structure, to regroup all military and civil air force functions and to rationalise and optimise all air force units. Five major commands, were formed, instead of the former 13, and several commands and units were disbanded.
The Directorate of Human Resources of the Air and Space Force (DRH-AAE) recruits, trains, manages, administers, and converts personnel of the Air and Space Force. Since January 2008, the DRH-AAE groups the former Air Force directorate of military personnel (DPMMA) and some tasks of the former Air Force Training Command. The directorate is responsible for Air and Space Force recruitment via the recruiting bureau.
French joint defence service organisations, supporting the air and space force, include:
The " Air Commissariat " (French: " Commissariat de l'Air ") between 1947 and 2007, then " Financial and General Administration Service " (French: " Service de l'Administration Générale et des Finances " (SAGF)) from 2008 until 2009, and finally the " Commissariat Service of the Armed Forces " (SCA) (French: Service du Commissariat des Armées) since 2010, have successively been designated as administrative services of the French Air and Space Force. The Commissioners as well as Civilians of this service carry out : operations support, individual legal rights, judicial, internal control accountability, financial and purchase executions, and support and protection of the combatant.
Commanded by a Lieutenant-colonel or Colonel, the Escadre is a formation that assembles various units and personnel dedicated to the same mission. In 1932, the "regiment" designation was replaced with "Escadre", which until 1994 was a unit consisting of the following:
units (escadrons or groups) generally equipped with the same type of aircraft or at least assuring the same type of mission
units of maintenance and support.
Escadres (wings) were dissolved from 1993 as part of the Armées 2000 reorganisation, were reestablished in 2014. The problems caused by having the aircraft maintenance units not responsible to the flying squadrons they supported eventually forced the change.
Four Escadres were reformed in the first phase:
The French Air and Space Force announced in August 2015 that unit numbering, moves of affected aircraft, and the transfer of historic material (flags, traditions and names) would be completed in 2016.
The squadrons have retained the designations of the former Escadres disbanded during the 1990s. For instance: Transport Escadron 1/64 Béarn (French: escadron de transport 1/64 Béarn) (more specifically Transport Escadron 01.064 Béarn), which belonged to the 64th Transport Escadre (French: 64e Escadre de Transport) during the dissolution of the later (recreated in August 2015). Not all escadrons (Squadrons) are necessarily attached to an Escadre.
The Escadrille (flight) has both an administrative and operational function, even of the essential operational control is done at the level of the Esacdron. A pilot is assigned to the Escadrille, however the equipment and material devices, on the other hand, are assigned to the Escadron. Since the ESTA (Aeronautic Technical Support Escadrons) came into being, material devices and the mechanics have been assigned directly to the base then put at disposition of the based Escadrons.
The Escadrilles adopted the traditions of the prestigious units out of which most (SPA and SAL),[note 1] are those traditions of the First World War.
Protection squadrons (French: Escadrons de protection) (EP)
Air Parachute Commando 10 (French: Commando parachutiste de l'air) (CPA 10)
Air Parachute Commando 20 (CPA 20)
Air Parachute Commando 30 (CPA 30)
Protection Squadrons protect airbases inside and outside the national territory, and in exterior operations as well.
The CPAs carry out common missions, as well as specialized tasks including intervention and reinforcement of protection at the profit of sensible points " air " inside and outside the national territory.
Flying activity in France is carried out by a network of bases, platforms and French air and space defence radar systems. It is supported by bases, which are supervised and maintained by staff, operational centres, warehouses, workshops, and schools. Both in France and abroad, bases have similar infrastructure to provide standardised support.
The French Air and Space Force has, as of 1 August 2014:
Within the metropolitan territory of France, 27 airbases, out of the which 18 aeronautical platform with perceived runways and 5 Bases non-platform, two schools, 3 air detachments and " one attached air element " (EAR).
Beyond the metropole/Europe, 7 Aerial Bases or permanent detachments in overseas or country.
Some French airbases house radar units (e.g. Lyon, Mont-Verdun, Drachenbronn, Cinq-Mars-la-Pile, Nice, Mont-Agel) to carry out air defence radar surveillance and air traffic control. Others house material warehouses or command posts. Temporary and semi-permanent foreign deployments include transport aircraft at Dushanbe (Tajikistan, Operation Héraclès), and fighter aircraft in N'Djamena (Tchad, Opération Épervier), among others.
As swift as the French Air and Space Force operates, the closure of aerial bases is more constant and immediate, having known a strong acceleration since the 1950s. An air base commander has authority over all units stationed on their base. Depending on the units' tasks, this means that they are responsible for approximately 600 to 2500 personnel.
On average, a base, made up of about 1500 personnel (nearly 3500 people including family), provides a yearly economic boost to its area of about 60 million euros. Consequently, determining the sites for air bases constitutes a major part of regional planning.
BA 118 Mont-de-Marsan Air Base. Home to 52× Rafale B and Rafale C. Home of CEAM, the Air and Space Force military experimentation and trials organisation, Air defence radar command reporting centre, and the air traffic control and air defence control training centre.
The Rafale has enjoyed continuous evolution since its introduction through cyclical modernization programs. The F2 standard was the first to be delivered to the French Air Force and was introduced in 2006 (the F1 standard representing the first 10 Rafale production units delivered to the French Navy as an emergency replacement for its F-8 Crusader carrier-based fighters, which were running out of steam). The Rafale F3 entered operational service in 2009 and the F3-R standard in 2018. The Rafale F4 is scheduled to enter operational service in 2025 and the Rafale F5 in the early 2030s.
Based on the Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and equipped with sensors dedicated to both image-based intelligence and electromagnetic intelligence (sensors developed by Thales and Sabena Technics). Also scheduled to integrate Safran's Euroflir 410 optronic ball.
1 additional unit on order
Purchase of 8 units in total originally planned but reduced to 3 in 2023. The leasing of additional ISTAR and SIGINT aircraft to complement the 3 VADOR and as an interim solution until the Archange's service entry is now the preferred option.
The first unit, in service since November 2010, is the main transport aircraft of the French President and part of the presidential fleet (7 aircraft in total)
3 additional units were ordered in August 2020 and delivered between November 2020 and November 2022. They will be converted into MRTT aircraft by 2025 in order to complement the 12 A330 MRTT purchased
The last six student fighter pilots trained on the Alpha Jet have received their badges in March 2023. The 53 aircraft dedicated to advanced training will thus be retired and replaced by the Pilatus PC-21. However, 18 units remain in service with the Patrouille de France.
Syracuse 4A launched in October 2021 and Syracuse 4B launched in July 2023.
3 satellites originally planned but in April 2023, it was announced the first two satellites would be more than sufficient and that the last, Syracuse 4C (previously scheduled to be launched by 2025), would be cancelled in favor of financing the European Union's IRIS² satellite internet constellation. It was also announced a program to develop the next generation of communications satellite constellation (Syracuse V) would be launched in the 2024-2030 French Military Planning Law to succeed the Syracuse 4A and Syracuse 4B satellites in the 2030s.
TRS 22XX and TRS 2215 three-dimensional long-range electronically scanned radars
Since the end of the Algerian War, the French Air and Space Force has comprised about 17 to 19% of the French Armed Forces. In 1990, at the end of the Cold War, numbers reached 56,400 military personnel under contract, out of which 36,300 were part of conscription and 5,400 civilians.
In 2008, forecasts for personnel of the French Air Force were expected to number 50,000 out of which 44,000 aviators on the horizon in 2014.
In 2010, the number personnel of the French Air Force was reduced to 51,100 men and women (20%) out of which: 13% officers; 55% sous-officier; 29% air military technicians (MTA); 3% volunteers of national service and aspirant volunteers; 6,500 civilians (14%). They form several functions:
Military Air Technicians (French: militaires techniciens de l’air) having been trained until 1 July 2015 at the Center of Elementary Military Formation (French: " Centre de formation militaire élémentaire ") of the Technical Instruction School of the French Air and Space Force (French: École d'enseignement technique de l'Armée de l'air) of Saintes. Since 1 July 2015, training has taken place at Orange-Caritat Air Base, within the " Operational Combatant Preparation Center of the Air Force " (French: Centre de préparation opérationnelle du combattant de l'Armée de l'air).
Air traffic controllers are trained at the Center of Instruction Control and Air Defense (French: Centre d'Instruction du Contrôle et de la Défense Aérienne).
^Michel L. Martin, Le déclin de l'armée de masse en France. Note sur quelques paramètres organisationnels, Revue française de sociologie, volume 22, number 22-1, year 1981, pages 87–115 0035-2969 1981 num 22 1 3390
^Bilan social 90, Editor : Direction de la fonction militaire et du personnel civil, 1990, total pages 62, passage 6 to 8 format=PDFArchived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
^ ab"Les grades"(PDF). defense.gouv.fr (in French). Ministry of Armed Forces (France). Retrieved 4 June 2021.
Olivier, Jean-Marc, (ed.), Histoire de l'armée de l'air et des forces aériennes françaises du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours" [History of the Air Force and French aerial forces since the 18th century to the present], Toulouse, Privat, 2014, 552 p.
Diego Ruiz Palmer, "France's Military Command Structures in the 1990s," in Thomas-Durell Young, Command in NATO After the Cold War: Alliance, National and Multinational Considerations, U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, June 1997