|Air and Space Force|
|Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace|
|Founded||Part of the French Army in 1909 - An independent service arm in 1934|
2 July 1934 (official)
|Type||Air and space force|
|Role||Aerial and space warfare|
|Size||41,160 personnel (2017)|
|Part of||French Armed Forces|
|Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force||Général d'armée aérienne Philippe Lavigne|
|Fighter||Rafale, Mirage 2000|
|Helicopter||AS532 Cougar, Fennec, EC725 Caracal|
|Trainer||Alpha Jet, Pilatus PC-21, SOCATA TBM, Extra EA-300|
|Transport||Lockheed 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 (AAE) (French: Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace, lit. 'Army of the Air and Space') is the air and space force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, and then made an independent military arm in 1934, becoming the French Air Force. On 10 September 2020, it assumed its current name, the French Air and Space Force. The number of aircraft in service with the French Air and Space Force varies depending on the source, however sources from the French Ministry of Defence give a figure of 658 aircraft in 2014. The French Air and Space Force has 232 combat aircraft in service, with the majority being 130 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 102 Dassault Rafale. As of early 2017, the French Air and Space Force employs a total of 41,160 regular personnel. The reserve element of the air and space force consisted of 5,187 personnel of the Operational Reserve.
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.
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 escadrilles (squadrons) supporting ground forces, including three squadrons assigned to cavalry units. By 8 October, expansion to 65 escadrilles 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 airplane, 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.
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 escadrilles for the Battle of the Somme. The burgeoning French aircraft inventory afforded the formation of Groupement de Combat de la Somme under Capitaine Felix Brocard. The Groupement was formed on 1 July 1916 with a posting of four Nieuport escadrilles: Escadrilles N.3, N.26, 73, and N.103. Three other squadrons--Escadrilles 37, N.62, and N.65 were temporarily attached at various times.
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 escadrilles. 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.
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 escadrilles, 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. Howeverk 5,500 pilots and observers were killed out of the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting to 31% of endured losses. A 1919 newspaper article reported that the French Air Force had a 61% percent war loss.
Military aeronautics was established as a "special arm" by the law of 8 December 1922. However, 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 (lang-fr|Groupements de l'Infanterie de l'Air) 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 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.
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.
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 - 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, 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 in development. As of 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 a leading 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 13 July 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 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).
Air and Space Force headquarters is co-located, alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff's offices (EMA) as well with Army and Navy headquarters at the Balard. It numbers 150 aviators. The new site succeeds the former Paris Air Base (BA 117), the air staff headquarters buildings, dissolved on 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)).
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:
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 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.
Another air force wing was added on September 5, 2019:
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 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 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.
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, centres of operations, 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:
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), for instance.
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 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 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; Creil Air Base (BA 110) vacated on 31 August 2016; and Taverny Air Base (DA 921), the former Strategic Air Forces Command headquarters.
Aircraft of the French Air and Space Force include:
|Mirage 2000D||France||Jet||Attack||1995||68||68||55 pieces 2000D variant will be modernized MLU by 2025|
|Rafale B/C/N||France||Jet||Multirole||2006||101||More 42 Rafale M in naval aviation|
Rafale N replaced the Mirage 2000N in nuclear strike roles
|Boeing E-3F Sentry||USA||Jet||AEW&C||1990||4||4|
|Beechcraft Super King Air 350||USA||Propeller||ISR||2018||2||2|||
|Transport and Tanker|
|Airbus A400M Atlas||Europe||Propeller||Transport||2014||18||18||32 more on order|
|DHC-6 Twin Otter||Canada||Propeller||Transport||1976||5||5|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||USA||Propeller||Transport||1987||14||14||7 C-130H, 7 C-130H-30|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||Europe||Jet||Tanker & Transport||2018||5||5||5 delivered on an order of 15. The 6th will be delivered in December 2021.The 7th, 8th and 9th will be delivered in July, November and December 2022.The 10th, 11th, 12th will be delivered in July, September and December 2023.The final target of 15 aircraft will be reached between 2025 and 2030 by converting the 3 A330-200s|
|Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules||USA||Propeller||Tanker & Transport||2018-2019||2/2||4||2 KC-130J and 2 C-130J to support Special Forces Operations|
|Socata TBM 700||France||Propeller||Transport||1990||15||15|
|Dassault Falcon 7X||France||Jet||Transport||2009||2||2|
|Dassault Falcon 900||France||Jet||Transport||1991||2||2|
|Dassault Falcon 2000||France||Jet||Transport||2011||2||2|
|Airbus A330-243||Europe||Jet||Transport||2020||3||3||3 delivered to be converted to MRTT standart; 1 for presidential transport|
|Aérospatiale SA330 Puma||France||Rotorcraft||Transport||1968||18||18||To be replace by 26 H225M Caracal|
|Eurocopter AS555 Fennec||Europe||Rotorcraft||Trainer||1990||40||40|
|Eurocopter EC725 Caracal||Europe||Rotorcraft||CSAR/SOF||2006||10||10||8 on order. More 8 planned in transfer from French Army|
|Diamond HK36 Super Dimona||Austria||Propeller||Trainer||2010||5||5|
|Embraer EMB 121 Xingu||Brazil||Propeller||Trainer||1982||22||22|
|Mirage 2000B-S5||France||Jet||Conversion trainer||1993||7||7||based at Orange-Caritat: EC 2/5 Ile-de-France; unarmed aircraft which will be kept until the withdrawal of the Mirage 2000 D to ensure the conversion to Mirage 2000.|
|Alpha Jet||France/Germany||Jet||Trainer||1978||20||20||Includes presentation team|
|General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper||USA||UAV||ISR/Attack||2013||12||12||One of the six original crashed in Niger. The drone lost in the Sahel in November 2018 is replaced by a Reaper rented, for two years, to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (for the annual sum of $1)|
|Surface-to-air missile||10||Systems "Mamba". Aster 30 has been successfully incorporated into a land based SAM system, fulfilling the "Ground-based area defence" mission requirement.|
|Crotale NG||France||Surface-to-air missile system||12||Short-range, mobile all-weather weapon system that holds eight VT-1 missiles.|
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:
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).
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 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).
|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|
| French Air and Space Force
|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|
| French Air and Space Force
|Major||Adjudant-chef||Adjudant||Sergent-chef||Sergent||Caporal-chef||Caporal||Aviateur 1e classe||Aviateur 2e classe|