|French Air Force|
|Armée de l'Air|
|Active||Part of the French Army in 1909 - An independent service arm in 1934|
2 July 1934 (official)
|Size||41,160 personnel (2017)|
687 aircraft, of which 226 are combat aircraft.
|Part of||French Armed Forces|
|Engagements||World War I|
Military intervention against ISIL
|Chief of Staff of the French Air Force||Général d'armée aérienne Philippe Lavigne, since August 31, 2018|
|Fighter||Rafale, Mirage 2000|
|Helicopter||Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, Eurocopter Fennec, Eurocopter EC725,|
|Trainer||Alpha jet, Pilatus PC-21, Socata TB 30 Epsilon, SAN Jodel D.140 Mousquetaire, SOCATA TBM, Extra EA-300|
|Transport||C-130, Airbus A310, Airbus A340, Airbus A400M, Dassault Falcon 7X, Dassault Falcon 900, Dassault Falcon 2000, Transall C-160 Boeing C-135FR|
The French Air Force (French: Armée de l'Air Française) [a?me d? l], literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1934. The number of aircraft in service with the French Air Force varies depending on source, however sources from the French Ministry of Defence give a figure of 658 aircraft in 2014. The French Air Force has 225 combat aircraft in service, with the majority being 117 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 108 Dassault Rafale. As of early 2017, the French Air Force employs a total of 41,160 regular personnel. The reserve element of the air force consisted of 5,187 personnel of the Operational Reserve.
French military aviation was born in 1909. After the approval of the law by the French National Assembly on March 29, 1912, French Military Aeronautics became officially part of the French Army, alongside the four traditional branches of the French Army, the infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers.
France was one of the first states to start building aircraft. At the beginning of First World War, France had a total of 148 planes (8 from French Naval Aviation (Aéronautique navale) and 15 Airships. By the time of the armistice in November 1918, 3608 planes were in service. 5,500 pilots and observers were killed from the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting then to 31% of endured losses
Military Aeronautics was established as a "special arm" by the law of December 8, 1922. however, the later remained under the auspices of the French Army. It wasn't until July 2, 1934, that the "special arm" became an independent service and was totally independent.
The initial air arm was also the cradle of French military parachuting, responsible for the first formation of the Groupements de l'Infanterie de l'Air, 'Air Infantry Groups', in the 1930s, out of which the Air Parachute Commandos (French: 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.
The French Air Force played an important role, most notable during the Battle of France of 1940. The engagement of the Free French Air Forces from 1940 to 1943, then the engagement of the aviators of the French Liberation Army, were equally marking episodes of the History of the French Air Force. The sacrifices of Commandant René Mouchotte and Lieutenant Marcel Beau illustrated their devotion.
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 also active in Algeria from 1952 until 1962 and Suez (1956), then 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.
Accordingly, from 1962, the French political leadership reprioritized its military emphasis on 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 (French: Commandement Air des Forces de Défense Aérienne, CAFDA), and the Force aérienne tactique (FATac). In 1964 the Second Tactical Air Command was created at 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), 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, the Falklands War, and the Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular jet fighters of its day, selling very widely.
In 1994 the Commandment of the Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air was reestablished under a different form.
The French Air Force is expanding and replacing its aircraft inventory. The Air Force is awaiting the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in development. As of late November 2016, 11 A400M aircraft had been delivered to ET00.061 at Orleans-Bricy, and integration of the new Dassault Rafale multi-role jet fighter was underway, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.
In 2009 France rejoined the NATO Military Command Structure, having been absent since 1966. France was also a lead nation, alongside the United States, Great Britain 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.
On July 13, 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command 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 Chief of Staff of the French Air Force (CEMAA) determines French Air Force doctrines application and advises the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA) on the deployment, manner, and use of the Air Force. He is responsible for the preparation and logistic support of the French Air 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 Force (IAA) and by the French Air Force Health Service Inspection (ISSAA).
Air Force headquarters is co-located, alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff's offices (EMA) as well with Army and Navy headquarters at the Ballard site, more commonly known as the " French Pentagon " or " Balardgone ". It numbers 150 aviators. The new site succeeds the former Paris Air Base (BA 117), the air staff headquarters buildings, dissolved on June 25, 2015.
The French Air Force has 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 forces of the French Air Force operated or trained; these two brigades are now subordinated to the CFA.
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 June 30, 1962 with the disestablishment of the 5th Aerial Region (French North Africa). The decree of July 14, 1991 reduced the air regions to three: « RA Atlantic », « RA Mediterranean » and « RA North-East ». On July 1, 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 April 26, 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 Air Force directs the Joint Space Command.
The Directorate of Human Resources of the Air Force (DRH-AA) recruits, forms, manages administers and converts personnel of the French Air Force. Since January 2008, the DRH-AA groups the former directorate of military personnel of the French Air Force (DPMMA) and some tasks of the former Air Force Training Command. The directorate is responsible for Air Force recruitment via the recruiting bureau.
French joint defence service organisations, supporting the air force, include:
Commanded by a Lieutenant-colonel or Colonel, the Escadre is a formation that assembles various units and personnel dedicated to the same mission. The designation of " Escadre " was replaced with that of regiment in 1932 and was designated until 1994, a unit grouping :
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:
In the second phase, the French Air Force announced in August 2015 the creation of six additional wings:
Also established was the Escadre Aérienne de Commandement et de Conduite Projetable (French: Escadre Aérienne de Commandement et de Conduite Projetable) at Évreux-Fauville Air Base on 27 August 2015.
The French Air Force also 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.
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.
A fighter squadron (escadron) can number some twenty machines, spread in general in three Escadrilles. A Transport Escadron (French: 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)).
The squadrons have retained the designations of the former Escadres disbanded during in 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 on 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 putting into effect of the ESTA (Aeronautic Technical Support Escadrons), material devices and the mechanics are 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 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.
AirFlying activity in France is carried out by a network of bases, platforms and French air defence radar systems. It is supported by bases, which are supervised and maintained by staff, centres of operations, warehouses, workshops, and schools. Both in France and abroad, bases have similar infrastructure to provide standardised support.
The French Air Force has, as of August 1, 2014:
Some French air bases 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), for instance.
As swift as the French Air Force operates, the closure of Aerial Bases is more constant and immediate, having known a strong acceleration since the 1950s. An airbase commander has authority over all units stationed on his base. Depending on the units tasks this means that he is 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.
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 Sept. 1, 2009; Colmar-Meyenheim Air Base (BA 132) was closed on June 16, 2010; Metz-Frescaty Air Base (BA 128) was closed on June 30, 2011; Brétigny-sur-Orge Air Base (BA 217), closed June 26, 2012; Cambrai - Épinoy Air Base (BA 103), was closed on June 28, 2012; Reims - Champagne Air Base (June 2012); Drachenbronn Air Base (BA 901) closed on July 17, 2015; Dijon Air Base (BA 102), was vacated on June 30, 2016;Creil Air Base (BA 110) vacated on August 31, 2016; and Taverny Air Base (DA 921), the former Strategic Air Forces Command headquarters.
Aircraft of the French Air Force include:
|Mirage 2000B||France||Jet||conversion trainer||2000||7||These aircraft are unarmed.|
|Mirage 2000D||France||Jet||Attack||1995||70||2000N variant was retired 21 June 2018.|
|Aérospatiale SA330 Puma||France||Rotorcraft||Transport||1968||25|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||EU||Jet||Tanker & transport||2018||2||12||2 delivered; 10 more on order; 15 total planned|
|Airbus A400M Atlas||EU||Propeller||Transport||2014||15||15||35 more on order.|
|Boeing E-3F Sentry||USA||Jet||AEW&C||1990||4||4|
|Alpha Jet||France/Germany||Jet||Trainer||1978||96||96||Includes Presentation Team|
|Dassault Falcon 7X||France||Jet||Transport||2||2|
|Dassault Falcon 900||France||Jet||Transport||2||2|
|Dassault Falcon 2000||France||Jet||Transport||2||2|
|DHC-6 Twin Otter||Canada||Propeller||Transport||1976||5|
|Diamond HK36 Super Dimona||Austria||Propeller||Trainer||5||5|
|Embraer EMB 121 Xingu||Brazil||Propeller||Trainer||23|
|Eurocopter AS555 Fennec||EU||Rotorcraft||Trainer||40|
|Eurocopter EC725 Caracal||EU||Rotorcraft||SAR||10|
|General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper||USA||UAV||ISR||2013||5||6||10 more on order One of the original 6 crashed in Niger.|
|Jodel D.140 Mousquetaire||France||Propeller||Trainer||1966||17|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||USA||Propeller||Transport||1972||14||14||7 C-130H, 7 C-130H-30|
|Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules||USA||Propeller||Tanker & Transport||2018-2019||3||1 on order (initial order of 2 KC-130J and 2 C-130J) to support Special Forces Operations|
|Socata TB 30 Epsilon||France||Propeller||Trainer||1984||32|
|Socata TBM 700||France||Propeller||Transport||1990||15|
|Beechcraft Super King Air 350||USA||Propeller||ISR||2018||3|||
Since the end of the Algerian War, the French Air 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:
Non-navigating personnel of the French Air 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).
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).
Officers, within their recruitment and future specialty, are trained at:
Officers of the French Air Force are spread in three corps:
Sous-Officiers are formed at:
Military Air Technicians (French: militaires techniciens de l'air) having been trained until July 1, 2015 at the Center of Elementary Military Formation (French: " Centre de formation militaire élémentaire ") of the Technical Instruction School of the French Air Force (French: École d'enseignement technique de l'Armée de l'air) of Saintes. Since July 1, 2015, training has taken place at Orange-Caritat Air Base (BA 115), within the " Operational Combatant Preparation Center of the Air Force " (French: Centre de préparation opérationnelle du combattant de l'Armée de l'air).
|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|
|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|
|Major||Adjudant-chef||Adjudant||Sergent-chef||Sergent||Caporal-chef||Caporal||Aviateur 1e classe||Aviateur 2e classe|