Forces Aérienne Stratégiques (FAS)
Strategic Air Forces
Active14 January 1964 - present
BranchFrench Air and Space Force
TypeMajor command
RoleNuclear deterrence
Size~ 2000 personnel (2017)
Garrison/HQVélizy – Villacoublay Air Base

The Strategic Air Forces (FAS) (French: Commandement des Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (CFAS)) is a command of the French Air and Space Force. It was created on January 14, 1964, and directs France's nuclear bombardment force.

The headquarters was formerly at Taverny Air Base, but has now moved to Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base.[citation needed]

Général de corps aérien Patrick Charaix is the current commander.[1] This is the equivalent of a lieutenant-general's position. He took command in 2012, after a year as the deputy commander. He took over from General Paul Fouilland, in command from 2007-2012.[2]


Mirage IVP of Escadron de Bombardement 1/91 Gascogne.
Mirage 2000N.

Initially, the Force de Frappe consisted of only of the 92 Bombardment Wing (Escadre), established in 1955 and operating 40 Sud Aviation Vautour IIB bombers.[3] These were considered marginal for a strategic bomber role and work began almost immediately on a replacement. In May 1956 a requirement for what became the Dassault Mirage IV bomber was drawn up;[3] this bomber was designed to carry nuclear gravity bombs over targets in the Eastern bloc at supersonic speeds and was declared operational in October 1964.

In May 1964, Genéral Marie, FAS commander, was replaced by Général Philippe Maurin, former commander of the Tactical Air Forces (FATAC).[4] General Maurin later became French Air Force chief of staff in 1967.

The first alert by a Dassault Mirage IV armed with AN-11 bombs, and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker was executed on October 8, 1964: from that point, a permanent alert was maintained.[5] In addition, the French aircraft carrier Verdun was envisaged to have deployed bomber aircraft at sea.

In April 1965, an intermediate-range ballistic missile launch base, part of the Strategic Air Forces was established. It was set up on the plateau d'Albion, Air Base 200 Apt-Saint-Christol (French: base aérienne 200 Apt-Saint-Christol) and equipped with underground launch missile silos. It was operational from August 2, 1971, until dismantling on September 16, 1996.[5]

In the spring of 1966, the deterrent force reached the strength of nine squadrons. In 1973, this deterrence force comprised 60 Mirage IV spread out among nine bases in metropolitan France.

The Mirage IV-P version armed with the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP-A) missile entered service in 1986. From 1988, Mirage 2000N began to enter service. All bomber versions of the Mirage IV were retired by 1996.

Since the 1990s, Strategic Air Forces aircraft may also be tasked to carry out conventional air strikes as part of France's exterior military operations.


From 1963 - 2007, the Strategic Air Forces were headquartered at an underground command centre, which also welcomed the same year the Operations Center of the Strategic Air Forces (French: Centre d’Opérations des Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (COFAS)). The command post was built 50 meters under the ground, with a fallout shelter destined for the executive power in case of nuclear war; this command post was in full use in 1967.[6] In 1968, CFAS headquarters was located at Taverny Air Base (BA 921) under the Montmorency Forest.

In 1968, at the peak of the highest alert phases, 62 Mirage IV (out of which nine were on operational alert and capable of "being engaged in 5 minutes while the remainder would follow within the hour,[7] with the alert phase readiness increasing to 15 minutes, from 1964 until 1990 respectively) formed the nucleus of the 3 Escadres Bombardment (EB) ( the 91st Bombardment Escadre (French: 91e Escadre de Bombardement), 91e EB - the 93rd Bombardment Escadre (French: 93e Escadre de Bombardement), 93 e EB - , and the 94th Bombardment Escadre (French: 94e Escadre de Bombardement), 94e EB) representing several bombardments units out of which 1 training center:[8]

Jointly, can be added 12 Boeing C-135F aerial refuelling aircraft (of which 3 are on operational alert), dispersed into 3 Escadrons (ERV) :

In addition to the command, can be added Aerial Base Apt-Saint-Christol (BA 200). BA 200 was created in April 1967 under the Plateau d'Albion.

Independent from the Strategic Air Forces (French: Forces Aériennes Stratégiques, FAS), several installations were utilized by the latter:

In 1985, CFAS had two squadrons of 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), and three squadrons of KC-135Fs, as well as the training/reconnaissance unit, CIFAS 328, at Bordeaux.[12]

On 16 July 1999, BA 200 on the Plateau d'Albion was transferred and renamed as Quartier Maréchal Kœnig, to house the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment (2e REG) and the bi-static space surveillance station GRAVES of the General Directorate for External Security.

FAS Headquarters was moved on 26 September 2007 from Taverny to Air Base 942 Lyon – Mont Verdun under Mount Verdun. Lyon - Mont Verdun was originally a secondary operations centre.[13]

In 2008, 60 Mirage 2000N of the Strategic Air Forces were stationed at two airbases.

Rafale B of the Escadron "Gascogne" & ASMPA.

In 2014, the Strategic Air Forces comprise two nuclear squadrons with more than 43 aircraft, numbering around 1400 personnel:[14]

The Mirage 2000N was planned to be retired from service in September 2018, with the La Fayette Squadron converting to Rafale B. Both fighter squadrons were to be stationed at Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base in order to improve training and logistics. Forward operating locations for dispersion of nuclear-armed Rafale flights will be retained at other air bases, in line with the French redundancy practice to prevent taking out the aerial nuclear arm with a single massive strike.[16]

The Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 02.091 Bretagne operating 14 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers is also part of the FAS. These aircraft will be replaced by 12 Airbus A330 MRTT « Phénix » between 2018 and 2025.

Nuclear Arms Depots

See also: History of France's military nuclear program

A scale maquette of ASMPA.

Between 1986 and 1989, the numerous AN-22 bombs equipping the Dassault Mirage IV bombers were withdrawn and a new generation of airborne missile (ASMPA) arms were placed in service. These missiles are stocked in various designated special munitions depots (French: Dépôts Ateliers Munitions Spéciales DAMS), which are highly protected sites on different Aerial Bases.

As of 2010, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMPA) of new generation is destined for the Strategic Air Forces (FAS) of the French Air Force and the French Naval Nuclear Force (French: Force Aéronavale Nucléaire, FANU) of the French Navy (Marine Nationale). The new equipment (French: Tête Nucléaire Aéroportée) (TNA) is of an estimated power mass of 300 kt.

As of end of 2008 and until 2012, depots were reorganized at the occasion of the arrival of the ASMPA missile to be re-baptized under another ASMPA depot vector (French: « Dépôts vecteurs ASMPA » (DVA)). The special munitions depot (French: Dépôts Ateliers Munitions Spéciales DAMS) change frequently. The DVA is confined to the squadron during the placement in effect, while the TNA are handled differently, in a specialized zone that is very well protected.


  1. ^, accessed July 2014.
  2. ^ "L'Adieu aux armes du commandant des forces aériennes stratégiques".
  3. ^ a b Gunston, Bill. Bombers of the West. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons; 1973. p105
  4. ^ Poilbout, Aurélien. "Quelle stratégie nucléaire pour la France?. L’armée de l’Air et le nucléaire tactique intégré à l’OTAN (1962-1966)." Revue historique des armées 262 (2011): 46-53.
  5. ^ a b [1], Historique - Chronologie Détaillée, Historique - Chronologie Détaillée, 2006, Forces aériennes stratégiques, March 1, 2008
  6. ^ [2], Taverny : Interview du lieutenant-colonel Marc Longobardi, Armée de l'air, July 26, 2011.
  7. ^ La mise en place et le développement de la première generation institut de stratégie (ISC), 2005, Philippe Vougny, général de corps aérien, Commandant les Forces Aériennes Stratégiques
  8. ^ Aerial Bombardment can include the designations of : Escadres Bombardment (French: Escadres de Bombardement, EB) units or refer to Escadrons Bombardment (French: Escadrons de Bombardement, EB) units ((EB) designation as well) including training Escadrons Bombardment. In the French language, there is even an Escadrilles Bombardment (French: Escadrilles de Bombardement). Accordingly an (EB) referring to a Bombardment unit can refer to any of a Escadre Bombardment (EB), Escadron Bombardment (EB) or Escadrille Bombardment (EB)
  9. ^ Dissolved in July 1996
  10. ^ a b Dissolved in 1983
  11. ^ Polynesia formerly garrisoned the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment 5e REI.
  12. ^ Isby, David; Kamps, Charles (1985). Armies of NATO's Central Front. London: Jane's Publishing Company. pp. 168–170. ISBN 0-7106-0341-X.
  13. ^ [3], Situation géographique, Forces aériennes stratégiques, Armée de l'air, July 5, 2014.
  14. ^ Véronique GUILLEMARD, La France ne baisse pas la garde, LE FIGARO, 2015
  15. ^ [4], Le Rafale prendra l'alerte nucléaire dès le 1er juillet, Jean-Dominique Merchet, June 11, 2010, Libération
  16. ^ "La nécessaire modernisation de la dissuasion nucléaire". (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2018.


Further reading