French Air Force
|Armée de l'Air|
|Founded||Part of the French Army in 1909, an independent service arm in 1933|
|Size||45,489 personnel (2014)
|Part of||French Armed Forces|
|Chief of Staff of the French Air Force||General Denis Mercier|
The French Air Force (French: Armée de l'Air (French pronunciation: [aʀme də lɛʀ]), 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 1933. 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 took active interest in developing the air force from 1909 and had the first World War I fighter pilots. During the interwar years, however, particularly in the 1930s, the quality fell after they compared with the Luftwaffe, which crushed the French during the Battle of France.
In the post–World War II era, the French made a successful effort to develop a domestic aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way mainly with delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Mirage series of jet fighters. 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, with a high quantity of sales. The French Air Force participated in several protracted colonial wars in Africa and Indochina after the Second World War, and continues to employ its air power in Africa.
From January 1964, the French political leadership, now prioritising nuclear deterrence, put in train a complete reorganisation of the Air Force, with the creation of four air régions and seven major specialised commands, among which was the Strategic Air Forces Command (Commandement des forces aérienne stratégiques) (CoFAS). The Military Air Transport Command had previously been formed in February 1962 from the Groupement d'Unités Aériennes Spécialisées. The Dassault Mirage IV, the principal French strategic bomber, was designed to strike Soviet positions as part of the French nuclear triad. Also created in 1964 was the Escadron des Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air (EFCA), seemingly grouping all FCA units.
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 the Commandement Air des Forces de Défense Aérienne (Air Command of Air Defence Forces). 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 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 Schools Command (CEAA), and the Air Force Transmissions Command, with four squadrons and three trials units.
In 1994 the Commandement des Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air was established.
Currently, the French Air Force is expanding and replacing aircraft inventory. The French are awaiting the A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in developmental stages, and the integration of the new Dassault Rafale multi-role jet fighter, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.
After an absence lasting several decades, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that France will rejoin the NATO integrated command. France has also been a lead nation, alongside the United States, Great Britain and Italy in implementing the UN sponsored no-fly zone in Libya (NATO 'Odyessy Dawn'), deploying 20 fighter aircraft to Benghazi in defense of rebel held positions and the civilian population.
From 2008-2010 the Air Force underwent an organisational streamlining process. This project was called Air 2010, which was the year of the deadline for all transitions. 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 to disband several commands and units.
- CDAOA (air defence and air operations command)
- CFA (air force command)
- CSFA (logistic command)
- DRHAA (human resource direction)
- SAGF (administration and finance service)
The last remaining squadron of Dassault Mirage F1s were retired in July 2014 and replaced by the Rafale.
The Minister of Defence is responsible for execution of military policy. He is advised by the Chief of Staff of the Armies (CEMA) in regard to the use of forces and the control of military operations. The Chief of Staff of the French Air Force (CEMAA) determines the air force doctrines and advises the CEMA how to deploy French air assets. He is responsible for the preparation and logistic support of the air force. The CEMAA is assisted by the air force staff and by its subordinate services. Finally, the CEMAA is assisted by the inspection of the air force (IAA) and by the air force health service inspection (ISSAA).
The Air Force's responsibilities are separated in two main types of commands: operational commands (direct responsible for force deployment) and organic commands (in charge of conditioning and logistic support).
This command controls all the air force's nuclear assets, and is responsible for the operational condition and the eventual deployment of these weapons. The CFAS commanding general is currently Général de corps aérien Patrick Charaix. The CFAS is one of the two pillars of the French nuclear deterrent. CFAS has two squadrons of dual capable aircraft, one of Mirage 2000N fighter/bombers capable of carrying the nuclear Air-Sol Moyenne Portée stand-off missile (EC 2/4 at Istres Le Tube), one of Rafales (EC 1/91 Gascogne at Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base) and a squadron of C-135FR in-flight refueling tankers.
- Air Defence and Air Operations Command (CDAOA)
This overall command is responsible for all air operations in peacetime serving the public, for the defence of the French airspace and for all offensive and defensive air operations at war. CDAOA, based in Paris and Lyon, plans and executes all air operations. Former Commandement air des systèmes de surveillance, d'informations et de communication (CASSIC) personnel are embedded here to develop exercises and operations abroad.
- Command of Air Forces (CFA)
A new command which was inaugurated in 2006. Its headquarters is at Metz. It is responsible for ensuring and to maintain the operational condition of all branches of the air force now and for the future. Today the CFA consists of 16 fighter, 25 air defence squadrons, one electronic warfare squadron, and simulator and instruction centres. At its airbases in Europe and abroad the CFA has 16,000 personnel, 246 fighter aircraft, 111 transport aircraft and 83 helicopters. The command is divided into:
- Brigade aérienne de l'aviation de chasse (BAAC, the Air Brigade of Fighter Aviation) which is responsible for all conventional combat and air defence aircraft, d'assaut et de reconnaissance (Rafale, Mirage 2000-5F, Mirage 2000B/C/D, Mirage F1-CR, Mirage F1-CT, Transall Gabriel). This brigade was the former Command of Combat Air Forces (CFAC).
- Brigade aérienne d'appui et de projection (BAAP, the Air Brigade of Assistance and Projection) which is responsible for all transport and liaison aircraft (Transall C-160, Hercules C-130, A310/319, Falcon 50/900, Puma, Fennec, Cougar, TBM700 etc.).
- Brigade aérienne de contrôle de l'espace (BACE, the Air Brigade of Space Control), which is responsible for the airborne means (AWACS E-3F) and land means (ground-based radars, systèmes de défense sol-air and antimissile, communications networks) of airspace surveillance. Since 2007 information networks are under control of the Joint Directorate of Infrastructure Networks and Information Systems (DIRISI), the interim joint defence communication and intelligence organisation. Since 2007, 38% ex-CASSIC personnel have joined the brigade, which also controls all ground-based air defence units.
- Brigade aérienne des forces de sécurité et d'intervention (BAFSI). This was the former CFPSAA, the Security and Protection Forces Command, renamed in 2007. This command was responsible for the operational readiness and the deployment of all base protecting squadrons, dog-handlers, fire brigades, paratroopers and NBC and decontamination personnel. In 2007, the CFPSAA was renamed BAFSI (Brigade Aérienne des Forces de Sécurité et d'Intervention).
Circa 2013 the CFA and the former commandement du soutien de la force aérienne (CSFA) merged. CSFA, based in Bordeaux, directed the technical and logistical assets. Since 2006 it had taken over many ex-CASSIC projects.
- Commandement des Écoles de l'Armée de l'Air (CEAA) —Air Force Training Command
Responsible for training all new air force personnel as well as on the technical and on the job training of the other air force personnel, as well as the officers and NCO training. CEAA is also responsible for all schools and training facilities.
The air base command levels are the combat assets of the ALA. 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.
Flying 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 almost similar infrastructure to provide standardised support. This operational mode allows fast and easy creation of air bases outside of France.
Overseas, fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters allow quick response to any request for assistance that falls within international agreements. On average, a base platform, made up of about 1500 personnel (nearly 3500 people including family), provides a yearly economic boost to its area of about 60 million euros. Consequently, determining the sites for air bases constitutes a major part of regional planning. 
- BA 102 Dijon airbase.
- BA 105 Évreux airbase. Command, operational and logistic support.
- BA 107 Villacoublay airbase. Helicopter and heavy air transport units.
- BA 110 Creil airbase. Air transport units with Casa CN-235/100.
- BA 113 Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base. Conversion squadron for the new Dassault Rafale C. Conventional/nuclear strike squadron with Rafale (EC 1/91).
- BA 116 Luxeuil airbase. Air defence squadrons equipped with Mirage 2000-5.
- BA 117 Paris airbase. Central command.
- BA 123 Orléans airbase. Former CFAP and CASSIC command location. CFPSAA operational command.
- BA 133 Nancy Ochey airbase. Fighter squadrons Mirage 2000D, SAM sqns.
- BA 217 Brétigny. Personnel officer/nco selection and logistic units.
- BA 279 Châteaudun airbase. Airplane storage base.
- BA 702 Avord airbase. CFAS nuclear strike stockpile. AWACS Boeing E-3 Sentry unit. Inflight refueling KC-135 unit
- Air Base 705 Tours. Fighter pilot training school.
- BA 901 Drachenbronn. Air defence radar command reporting centre.
- DA 273 Romorantin air detachment. Logistic unit.
Two bases have recently been closed; DA 922 Doullens air detachment, a disbanded command reporting centre, and Taverny Air Base, the former Strategic Air Forces Command headquarters.
- Air Base 101 Toulouse. Instruction air transport unit Transall C-160 NG and Puma SA 330.
- BA 106 Mérignac airbase. Transport support base for the air staff.
- Air Base 115 Orange-Caritat. Air defence squadrons Mirage 2000C and transition squadron Mirage 2000B.
- Air Base 118 Mont de Marsan at Mont de Marsan. Home of CEAM, the Air Force military experimentation and trials organisation, Air defence radar command reporting centre, instruction centre for air defence control.
- Air Base 120 Cazaux, situated South-west of the port city of Bordeaux. Air force airplane stockpile.
- Air Base 125 Istres. CFAS nuclear strike stockpile. Strike squadron equipped with Mirage 2000N. Transall C-160 G strategic communication flight. Inflight refueling unit with C-135RF. CEAM, the Air Force military experience centre.
- Air Base 126 Solenzara. Fighter gunnery range. SAR unit.
- DA 277 Varennes-sur-Allier. French Airforce Stock. Known for its strategic position in the middle of France.
- Air Base 278 Ambérieu. Logistic support base.
- BA 701 Salon de Provence. Officer instruction school. Enlisted instruction school.
- Air Base 709 Cognac. Basic flight training school.
- Air Base 721 Rochefort. Located at Rochefort-Saint-Agnant. Home of the NCO school, the École de formation des sous-officiers de l'armée de l'air.
- Air Base 942 Lyon – Mont Verdun. Air defence radar command reporting centre. CNOA location. National Air Operations Command.
- DA 204 Mérignac. Logistic detachment.
- EETAA 722 Saintes. Air force electronic, technical instruction also as Military basic Bootcamp.
- EPA 749 Grenoble. Air force child support school
- BA 160 Dakar, Africa. Mixed units.
- BA 181 Réunion (French department), Indian Ocean. Mixed units.
- BA 188 Djibouti, Africa. Mixed units.
- Air elements Libreville/Gabon.
- Air elements N’djamena/Chad. Mixed units.
- BA 190 French Polynesia (Overseas collectivity). Mixed unit.
- BA 365 Martinique (French department), West Indies. Mixed unit.
- BA 367 French Guiana (French department), South America. Mixed units.
- BA 376 New Caledonia (special collectivity of France), Pacific Air defence radar command BA 376 New Caledonia
- BA 104 Abu Dhabi
The French Air Force has 217 combat aircraft in service, with the majority being 126 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 91 Dassault Rafale. The 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security allows for only 225 combat aircraft in service with both the French Air Force and the French Naval Aviation by 2019. With a split of around 180 in the air force and 45 in the navy.
|Dassault Rafale||France||Multirole fighter aircraft||C
|Procurement delayed, only 26 will be delivered from 2014 - 2016, instead of original plans for 66.|
|Dassault Mirage 2000||France||Fighter Aircraft
|Mirage 2000D to be modernised according to the French White Paper 2013.|
|Boeing E-3 Sentry||United States||AWACS||F||4|
|Transall C-160||France||Signals intelligence (ELINT)||G||2|
|Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker||United States||Aerial refueling||FR||14||To be retired and replaced by Airbus A330 MRTT.|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||France||Aerial refueling||12 on order (reduced from 14).|
|Airbus A340||France||Strategic airliner||200||2||To be retired and replaced by Airbus A330 MRTT.|
|Airbus A310||France||Strategic airliner||300||3||To be retired and replaced by Airbus A330 MRTT.|
|Airbus A400M Atlas||Spain||Tactical transport||5||50 on order|
|Transall C-160||France||Tactical transport||R||31|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||United States||Tactical transport||C-130H
|CASA/IPTN CN-235||Spain||Tactical transport||200
|A small, medium-ranged tactical transport aircraft. Used for transporting light cargo or paratroopers.|
|DHC-6 Twin Otter||Canada||Utility Transport||300||5|
|Airbus A330||France||VIP Transport||223||1||Presidential plane|
|Dassault Falcon 7X||France||VIP Transport||2|
|Falcon 2000||France||VIP Transport||LX||2|
|Dassault Falcon 900||France||VIP Transport||2|
|Socata TBM 700||France||VIP Transport, Experimental||A||15|
|Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet||France||Trainer Aircraft
|Embraer EMB 121 Xingu||Brazil||Trainer Aircraft||AA
|Jodel D-140||France||Trainer Aircraft||R||17|
|Socata TB 30 Epsilon||France||Trainer Aircraft||33|
|Walter Extra 300||Germany||Trainer Aircraft, Aerobatic aircraft||LP/SC||3|
|Diamond HK36 Super Dimona||Austria||Trainer Aircraft||5||A two-seat motor gliders.|
|Eurocopter EC725 Caracal||France||Combat SAR helicopter||RESCO||11|
|Eurocopter AS532 Cougar||France||Search and rescue helicopter||(AS 332 M1 – AS 532 UL)||10|
|Aérospatiale SA330 Puma||France||Transport helicopter||BA||20|
|Eurocopter AS555 Fennec||France||Utility and training helicopter||AN
|EADS Harfang|| Israel
|General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper||United States||Battlefield Surveillance||2||12 on order.|
As of early 2014, the French Air Force employs a total of 45,489 regular personnel. The reserve element of the air force consists of; 4,737 personnel of the Operational Reserve and 5,618 personnel of the Citizens Reserve.
- "Bilan social 2013" 17 July 2014 (in French)
- "Chiffres clés de la Défense 2014" 28 August 2014 (in French)
- World Air Forces 2014 10 December 2013
- "Defence key figures 2013"
- "Biography General Denis Mercier"
- (French) Livre Blanc 2013 : le chef d'Ã©tat-major de l'armÃ©e de l'air s'exprime. Defense.gouv.fr. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- "Annuaire statistique de la défense 2013-2014" 10 July 2014 (in French)
- "Annuaire statistiques de la défense 2012-2013" 4 June 2013 (in French)
- Décree 6446 du 14 janvier 1964 créating the Commandement des Forces aériennes stratégiques (CoFAS)
- Isby, David; Kamps, Charles (1985). Armies of NATO's Central Front. London: Jane's Publishing Company. pp. 168–170. ISBN 0-7106-0341-X.
- "Sarkozy confirmed that France will soon return to NATO’s integrated command" 17 June 2008
- "Report Hubert Védrine" 12 November 2012 (in English)
- "The Military Balance 2013"., 14 March 2013.
- Gunston, Bill. Bombers of the West. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons; 1973. p105
- Le Commandement des forces aériennes (CFA) stationné à Metz a absorbé en 2007 le CASSIC et en 2008 le Commandement des forces de protection et de sécurité de l'Armée de l'air (CFPSAA), ces deux anciens commandements devenant des brigades under the orders of the general commanding CFA/CSFA.
- "France faced with developments in the international and strategic context" 3 April 2012 (in English)
- Scramble. Scramblemagazine.nl. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- Livre blanc défense et sécurité nationale 2013 29 April 2013 (in French)
- "White Paper on Defense and National Security 2013-Twelve key points" 29 April 2013
- "White Paper on Defense and National Security 2013" 29 April 2013 (in English)
- "Chiffres clés de la Défense 2014" 28 August 2014 (in French)
- "Lancement du nouveau standard du programme Rafale" 10 January 2014 (in French)
- "Le programme Rafale 2014" 21 November 2013 (in French)
- "Dassault Rafale 2014" 25 July 2014
- "LPM 2014-2019" 2 August 2013 (in French)
- "PLF 2014" 10 October 2013 (in French)
- " Projet de loi de finances pour 2014 : Défense équipement des forces" 21 November 2013 (in French)
- French budget plan applies brakes to Rafale, A400M deliveries. Flightglobal.com (2013-08-08). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- 225 avions de combat... pas plus !. Marianne.net. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- "La rénovation à mi-vie du Mirage 2000D" 21 November 2013 (in French)
- Zone Militaire » Blog Archive Les Mirage 2000-5 seront rĂŠnovĂŠs - Zone Militaire. Opex360.com (2013-06-25). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- "Mirage 2000N" 24 September 2013 (in French)
- "Airbus A400M Atlas" 19 September 2013 (in French)
- "La DGA réceptionne le système Reaper français" 10 January 2013 (in French)
- "Bilan social 2013" 17 July 2014 (in French)
- "Bilan social 2012" 8 July 2013 (in French)
- Olivier, Jean-Marc, (ed.), Histoire de l'armée de l'air et des forces aériennes françaises du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours" [History of the French Air Force since the 18th century to the present], Toulouse, Privat, 2014, 552 p.
- Thomas-Durell Young, Command in NATO After the Cold War: Alliance, National and Multinational Considerations, U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, June 1997
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air force of France.|
- (French) Official website
- (English) Official website
- (French) List of air bases, appendix of the budget bill for 2006, French Senate