Air and Space Force
Armée de l'air et de l'espace
Founded2 July 1934; 89 years ago (1934-07-02)
Country France
TypeAir and space force
RoleAerial and space warfare
Size
  • 40,500 personnel (2021)
  • 520 aircraft
  • 41 satellites
Part ofFrench Armed Forces
Garrison/HQHexagone Balard, Paris
ColoursBlue, white, red
      
Anniversaries2 July
Engagements
Websitewww.defense.gouv.fr/air Edit this at Wikidata
Commanders
Chief of the Armed ForcesPresident Emmanuel Macron
Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space ForceGénéral d'armée aérienne Stéphane Mille [fr]
Insignia
Roundel
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
Electronic
warfare
E-3 Sentry
FighterRafale, Mirage 2000
HelicopterAS532 Cougar, Fennec, EC725 Caracal
TrainerAlpha Jet, Pilatus PC-21, SOCATA TBM, Extra EA-300
TransportLockheed C-130, Airbus A310, Airbus A330, Airbus A400M, Dassault Falcon 7X, Dassault Falcon 900, Dassault Falcon 2000, Transall C-160, Boeing C-135FR

The French Air and Space Force (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.[1]

The number of aircraft in service with the French Air and Space Force varies depending on the source; the Ministry of Armed Forces gives a figure of 658 aircraft in 2014.[2][3] According to 2018 data, this figure includes 210 combat aircraft: 115 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 95 Dassault Rafale.[4] As of 2021, the French Air and Space Force employs a total of 40,500 regular personnel, with a reserve element of 5,187 in 2014.[5]

The Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) is a direct subordinate of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA), a high-ranking military officer who in turn answers to the civilian Minister of the Armed Forces.

History

Main articles: History of the Armée de l'Air (1909–1942) and History of the Armée de l'Air (colonial presence 1939–1962)

In the beginning

Establishment of the Service Aéronautique

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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[6]

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, turned airplanes into flying gun platforms.[8]

"Company of aviators", September 1914, by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont
French aircraft during World War I, flying over German held territory (1915)
Nieuport-Delage NiD.29 C.1 fighter used in the early post-WWI period.

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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9]

Concentrating airpower

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[7] 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.[13] However, 5,500 pilots and observers were killed out of the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting to 31%.[14] A 1919 newspaper article reported that the French Air Force had suffered losses of 61%.[15]

Interwar period

Dewoitine D.510 monoplane fighters from the mid-1930s

Military aeronautics was established as a "special arm" by the law of 8 December 1922.[16] 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.

World War II

The French Air Force played an important role in WWII, most notably during the Battle of France in 1940. The Vichy French Air Force had later a significant presence in the French Levant.

The engagement of the Free French Air Forces from 1940 to 1943, and then the engagement of the aviators of the French Liberation Army, were also important episodes in the history of the French Air Force. The sacrifices of Commandant René Mouchotte and Lieutenant Marcel Beau illustrated their devotion.

1945–present

A North American T-28 Trojan, used against guerrillas during the Algerian War

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).

The French Air Force was active in Algeria from 1952 until 1962 and Suez (1956), later Mauritania and Chad, the Persian Gulf (1990–1991), ex-Yugoslavia and more recently in Afghanistan, Mali and Iraq.

From 1964 until 1971 the French Air Force had the unique responsibility for the French nuclear arm via Dassault Mirage IV or ballistic missiles of Air Base 200 Apt-Saint-Christol on the Plateau d'Albion.

Mirage IIIC of EC 2/10 "Seine" pictured in 1980 armed with a Matra R.530

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).[17] 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.

In 1985, the Air Force had four major flying commands, the Strategic Air Forces Command, the Tactical Air Forces Command, the Military Air Transport Command, and CAFDA (air defence).[18]

A 1986 view of a Mirage F1 from the Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and another from the Escadron de Chasse 3/30 Lorraine, both armed with Matra R.530 missiles. Squadron insignias are visible on the two aircraft.

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.

Dassault Aviation led the way mainly with delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Dassault Mirage III series of fighter jets. The Mirage demonstrated its abilities in the Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War, Falklands War, and Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular jet fighters of its day and being widely sold.

In 1994, the Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air command was reestablished under a different form.

Mirage 2000 in flight
Logo between 1989 and 2010

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.

In 2009, France rejoined the NATO Military Command Structure, having been absent since 1966.[19] France was a leading nation, alongside the United States, United Kingdom and Italy in implementing the UN sponsored no-fly zone in Libya (NATO Operation Unified Protector), deploying 20 fighter aircraft to Benghazi in defense of rebel-held positions and the civilian population.[20]

The last remaining squadron of Dassault Mirage F1s retired the aircraft in July 2014 and replaced them with Dassault Rafales.

Logo between 2010 and 2020

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.[21] According to Defense Minister Florence Parly, France reserves the right to arm French satellites with lasers for defensive purposes.[22]

The official renaming occurred on 24 July 2020, with the new Air and Space Force logo unveiled on 11 September 2020.[1]

Structure

Général d'armée aérienne André Lanata, former chief of staff of the French Air Force

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.

Under the authority of the Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) in Paris, the Air and Space Force includes:

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.

Commands

The French Air and Space Force has had three commands: two grand operational commands (CDAOA and CFAS) and one organic command (CFA).

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.[33][34]

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.[35]

Support services

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:[23]

Wings

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:

Escadres (wings) were dissolved from 1993 as part of the Armées 2000 reorganisation, were reestablished in 2014.[37] 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:[37]

In the second phase, the French Air Force announced in August 2015 the creation of six additional wings:[37]

Also established was the Escadre Aérienne de Commandement et de Conduite Projetable at Évreux-Fauville Air Base on 27 August 2015.

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.[37]

Another air force wing was added on September 5, 2019:

Squadrons and flights

Commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, the Escadron is the basic operational unit. This term replaced that of Group as of 1949 with the aim to standardize usage with the allies of NATO who were using the term 'squadron'. However, the term Group did not entirely disappear: the term was retained for the Aerial Group 56 Mix Vaucluse, specialized in Special Operations or Group – Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 02.091 Bretagne (French: Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 02.091 Bretagne) which is still carrying the same designation since 2004.[citation needed]

A fighter squadron (escadron) can number some twenty machines, spread in general in three Escadrilles. A Transport Escadron (Escadron de Transport) can theoretically count a dozen Transall C-160, however, numbers are usually much less for heavier aircraft (three Airbus A310-300 and two Airbus A340-200 for the Transport Escadron 3/60 Estérel (French: Escadron de Transport 3/60 Estérel)).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air

The Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air comprise:[38]

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.

Air bases

Main article: List of French Air and Space Force bases

Air bases in Metropolitan France

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:

A French Air and Space Force Dassault Rafale B at RIAT in 2009
Crotale missile-launchers of the Air Defense Ground-to-Air Squadron of the French Air and Space Force

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.[39]

Orange-Caritat Air Base

Overseas

Brétigny-sur-Orge Air Base

More than ten bases have been closed since 2009. Doullens Air Base (BA 922) was a former command and reporting centre; Toulouse - Francazal Air Base (BA 101), was closed on 1 September 2009; Colmar-Meyenheim Air Base (BA 132) was closed on 16 June 2010; Metz-Frescaty Air Base (BA 128) was closed on 30 June 2011; Brétigny-sur-Orge Air Base (BA 217), closed 26 June 2012; Cambrai - Épinoy Air Base (BA 103), was closed on 28 June 2012; Reims – Champagne Air Base (June 2012); Drachenbronn Air Base (BA 901) closed on 17 July 2015; Dijon Air Base (BA 102), was vacated on 30 June 2016;[41] Creil Air Base (BA 110) vacated on 31 August 2016; and Taverny Air Base (DA 921), the former Strategic Air Forces Command headquarters.

Inventory

Aircraft

This section duplicates the scope of other articles, specifically List of active military aircraft of the French Armed Forces#Air Force. Please discuss this issue and help introduce a summary style to the section by replacing the section with a link and a summary or by splitting the content into a new article. (April 2024)

See also: List of active military aircraft of the French Armed Forces

Dassault Rafale B
Dassault Mirage 2000-5F
Boeing E-3F Sentry
Airbus A330 MRTT Phénix
Airbus A400M Atlas
Airbus A330-200 presidential aircraft
Dassault Falcon 2000EX
Airbus H225M Caracal
Dassault Mirage 2000B conversion trainer
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV
Aircraft Origin Type Introduced In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Dassault Rafale B/C France Multirole fighter 2006 100
  • Additional units on order (185 Rafale in total planned for the Air Force)
  • The Rafale B replaced the Mirage 2000N in the pre-strategic nuclear strike role
  • 40 additional units (Rafale M) in naval service[4][42]
  • 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.[43]
Dassault Mirage 2000D France Tactical bomber 1995 66
  • 48 units being modernized (mid-life upgrade program launched in 2016), with first modernized aircraft being delivered in January 2021
  • 36 modernized units in service as of 2023[44]
Dassault Mirage 2000-5F France Multirole fighter 1993 26[45]
AWACS
Boeing E-3F Sentry United States AEW&C 1990 4
  • Fitted with the newer CFM56-2 engines
  • All upgraded to the Block 40/45 standard, with the first modernized unit delivered in July 2014[46]
  • To be succeeded by the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) in the early 2030s
Reconnaissance
Dassault Falcon Archange France SIGINT / ELINT / EW TBD 0
ASLR VADOR United States ISTAR / SIGINT 2022 2
  • 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.[48]
Tanker
Airbus A330 MRTT Phénix Europe Aerial refueling / Airborne command and control node / Transport 2018 12 15 planned in total (3 civilian Airbus A330-200 purchased in 2020 will be converted to complement the 12 MRTT ordered by 2025)[49]
Lockheed KC-130J United States Aerial refueling / Transport 2019 2[50]
Boeing C135FR/KC135 United States Aerial refueling 1964 3 The original C135FR were retired between October 2020 and December 2023. The remaining 3 KC135 should remain in service until 2025[51]
Transport
Airbus A400M Atlas Europe Tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities / Aerial refueling 2013 23 27 additional units on order[52]
Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules United States Tactical airlifter 2018 2[53]
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States Tactical airlifter 1987 14 To be replaced by the Future Medium-size Tactical Cargo (FMTC) aircraft[54]
CASA CN235 Spain Tactical airlifter 1993 27 To be replaced by the FMTC aircraft[55]
Airbus A330-200 Europe VIP transport 2010
2020
4
  • 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[49]
Dassault Falcon 7X France VIP transport 2009 2
  • Part of presidential fleet
  • In service since 2009 and 2010 respectively[56]
Dassault Falcon 2000EX/LX France VIP transport 2011 2 Part of the presidential fleet
Dassault Falcon 900 France VIP transport 1991 2 Part of the presidential fleet
Socata TBM 700 France Liaison aircraft 1990 15
DHC-6 Twin Otter Canada Liaison aircraft 1978 5
Helicopter
Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal Europe Transport / CSAR helicopter 2006 10
  • 32 H225M Caracal and H225 units scheduled to be in service by 2030 and all 36 planned by 2035
  • 10 Caracal in service as of 2021, with additional units on order[57]
  • All Caracal helicopters in service with the French Army (8 units) will also be transferred to the Air and Space Force after delivery of 18 NH90 Forces Spéciales to the army's 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment.
Airbus Helicopters H225 Europe Transport / SAR helicopter 2016 2 Additional units on order
Airbus Helicopters H215 Super Puma France VIP transport helicopter 1984 3
  • Dedicated to presidential and governmental transport
  • Being replaced by the Airbus H225
Aérospatiale SA330 Puma France Medium utility helicopter 1974 18 Being replaced by the H225M Caracal
Eurocopter AS555 Fennec Europe Light utility helicopter 1990 40 To be replaced by the Airbus Helicopters H160M Guépard
Airbus Helicopters H160M Guépard Europe Medium multirole helicopter TBD 0 40 units out of the 180 planned for the French Armed Forces are destined for the Air and Space Force.
Trainer aircraft
Dassault Mirage 2000B-S5 France Conversion trainer 1993 7
Pilatus PC-21 Switzerland Advanced trainer 2018 26
Embraer EMB 121 Xingu Brazil Multi-engine trainer 1982 22
Beechcraft Super King Air 350 Extended Range United States Multi-engine trainer / Navigation trainer 2020 1 Training outsourced to CAE Aviation
Grob 120A-F Germany Basic trainer 2007 18 Fleet outsourced to Airbus Flight Academy
Cirrus SR20 United States Ab initio trainer 2013 16 Fleet outsourced to Airbus Flight Academy
Cirrus SR22 United States Ab initio trainer 2013 9 Fleet outsourced to Airbus Flight Academy
Diamond HK36 Super Dimona Austria Motor glider 2010 5
Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal Europe Rotorcraft trainer 2006 1
Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet France
Germany
Advanced jet trainer
Aerobatic display
1978 18
  • The last six student fighter pilots trained on the Alpha Jet have received their badges in March 2023. The 53 aircraft dedicated to advanced jet training were thus retired and as of April 2024, discussions are taking place with the United Kingdom and Spain for a joint program to replace the jet trainer. The new aircraft is expected by 2032.
  • 18 units remain in service with the Patrouille de France.
Extra EA-300 Germany Aerobatic display 2005 3
UAVs
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper United States ISTAR / UCAV 2013 12
  • 4 systems (12 drones) in service as of 2023
  • To be replaced by at least 6 Eurodrone systems by 2035 (first system to be delivered by 2030)

Satellites

Mock-up of a CSO satellite
Mock-up of a Pléiades satellite
Mock-up of a CERES satellite
Mock-up of the two Syracuse IV satellites
Name Origin Type Introduced In service Notes
Airbus Defence and Space / Thales Alenia Space

CSO

France Earth observation constellation 2018 2 satellites
  • Successor of the Helios 2 constellation
  • CSO-1 launched in December 2018 and CSO-2 in December 2020
  • The last satellite, CSO-3, is scheduled to be launched in 2024
  • To be succeeded by a new generation optical intelligence constellation (IRIS) from 2028 onwards[58]
Airbus Defence and Space

Pléiades Neo

France Earth observation constellation 2021 2 satellites
  • Successor of the Pléiades constellation
  • Pléiades Neo 3 and 4 launched in April and August 2021 respectively
  • 4 satellites originally planned but the Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 were lost in December 2022 as a result of the failure of Vega C flight VV22
Airbus Defence and Space

Pléaides

France Earth observation constellation 2011 2 satellites
  • Pléiades 1A launched in December 2011 and Pléiades 1B in December 2012
  • Still operational as of 2023
Airbus Defence and Space

Helios 2

France Earth observation constellation 2004 2 satellites
  • Successor of the Helios 1 constellation (launched in 1995 and decommissioned in 2012)
  • Helios 2A launched in December 2004 and Helios 2B in December 2009
  • Still operational as of 2023
Airbus Defence and Space / Thales Alenia Space

CERES

France Electromagnetic intelligence constellation 2021 3 satellites
  • All 3 CERES satellites launched in November 2021
  • To be succeeded by a new generation electromagnetic intelligence constellation (CELESTE) from 2029 onwards
Thales Alenia Space / Airbus Defence and Space

Syracuse IV

France Telecommunication satellite constellation 2021 2 satellites
  • Successor of the Syracuse III constellation
  • 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.
Thales Alenia Space

Syracuse III

France Telecommunication satellite constellation 2005 2 satellites
  • Syracuse 3A launched in October 2005 and Syracuse 3B in August 2006.
  • Still operational as of 2023
Thales Alenia Space

Sicral 2

France
Italy
Telecommunication satellite 2015 1 satellite Launched in April 2015
Thales Alenia Space

Athena-Fidus

France
Italy
Telecommunication satellite 2014 1 satellite Launched in February 2014
Galileo Europe Global navigation satellite system 2011 24 satellites Being launched since October 2011

Air defense

A SAMP/T launch module deployed
Crotale NG
Name Origin Type Introduced In service Notes
Eurosam SAMP/T Mamba France
Italy
High to medium air defense system 2011 8 batteries
  • First French MAMBA squadron achieved operational status in October 2011
  • To be succeeded by the SAMP/T NG (New Generation)
  • 12 SAMP/T NG batteries planned in total (8 to be in service by 2030 and 12 by 2035)[59]
Thales Crotale NG France Short range air defense system 1990 8–10 units
  • To be replaced by the VL MICA NG medium-range surface-to-air missile system
  • 12 VL MICA NG batteries planned in total (9 to enter service by 2030 et 12 by 2035)[60]
Thales/CS Group PARADE France Modular counter-drone platform 2023 Unknown
  • Development led by Thales and CS Group
  • 6 systems to be delivered to the French Armed Forces in 2023 (the number of systems going to the Air and Space Force is unknown)
  • 15 systems planned in total, with full delivery to be completed by 2030[61]
MC2 Technologies NEROD F5 France Man-portable anti-drone jamming system 2020 Unknown The NEROD F5 is a microwave jammer capable of disrupting and neutralizing all communication protocols used by drones. It neutralizes:
  • the usual or improvised mini and micro drones by acting simultaneously on 4 remote control frequencies among 5 available
  • the satellite navigation system of the targeted drone.[62]

Surveillance systems

The Air and Space Force operates a wide range of air and space surveillance systems. Among them, the:

Personnel

Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air at the opening of a war memorial
Side cap of the French Air and Space Force personnel

Since the end of the Algerian War, the French Air and Space Force has comprised about 17 to 19% of the French Armed Forces.[63] 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.[64]

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:

Non-flying personnel

Non-navigating personnel of the French Air and Space Force include and are not limited to : Systems Aerial Mechanics (French: mécanicien système aéronautique), Aerial Controllers (French: contrôleur aérien), Meteorologists (French: météorologue), Administrative Personnel, Air Parachute Commandos (French: Commandos parachutistes de l'air), in Informatics, in Infrastructures, in Intelligence, Commissioner of the Armies (French: Commissaire) (Administrator Task).

Flying personnel

Pilots, Mechanical Navigating Officer (French: Mécanicien Navigant), Navigating Arms Systems Officer (French: Navigateur Officier Système d'Armes) (NOSA), Combat Air Medic (French: Convoyeur de l'Air) (CVA).

Training of personnel

Students of the École de l'air (Air School) during the military parade of July 14th in 2007 on the Champs-Élysées

Officers, within their recruitment and future specialty, are trained at:

Officers of the French Air and Space Force are spread in three corps:

Non-commissioned officers (Sous-Officiers) are trained at:

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).

Ranks

Main article: Ranks in the French Air and Space Force

Officers
NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
France French Air and Space Force[66]
Général d´armée aérienne Général de corps aérien Général de division aérienne Général de brigade aérienne Colonel Lieutenant-colonel Commandant Capitaine Lieutenant Sous-lieutenant Aspirant Élève-officier
Enlisted
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
France French Air and Space Force[66]
Major Adjudant-chef Adjudant Sergent-chef Sergent Caporal-chef Caporal Aviateur 1e classe Aviateur 2e classe

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Designations of Escadrilles composed of the identifying number of material devices (for instance SPA for escadrille equipped with SPAD, N for Nieuport, SAL for Salmson, etc.) and an order number.

References

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Further reading