French Naval Aviation

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French Naval Aviation
Sigle Aéronavale.jpg
Founded 1910
Country  France
Branch  French Navy
Size 206 aircraft
Roundels Roundel of the French Fleet Air Arm.svg
Marine Nationale
Naval Ensign of France
Motto: Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline
(“Honour, Homeland, Valour, Discipline”)
Naval Ministers
Maritime Prefect
Force d'action navale
Forces sous-marines (FOST, ESNA)
Aviation navale
FORFUSCO (Commandos Marine, Fusiliers Marins)
Gendarmerie Maritime
Current fleet
Current deployments
Ranks in the French Navy
History of the French Navy
Future of the French Navy
Ensigns and pennants
Historic ships

   ships of the line
   Sail frigates

Historic fleets
Croix de guerre
Médaille militaire
Légion d'honneur

French Naval Aviation (French: Aéronautique navale or colloquialy Aéronavale) is the naval air arm of the French Navy. Born as a fusion of carrier squadrons and naval patrol air force, the Aéronautique navale was created in 1912. The headquarters is under command of an admiral (ALAVIA) in Toulon naval base. The French Naval Aviation has a strength of around 6,800 military and civilian personnel. They operate from four airbases in Metropolitan France and several detachments in foreign countries or French overseas territories. Carrier-borne pilots of the French navy do their initial training at Salon-de-Provence Air Base.


The Marine Nationale is, along with the US Navy and the Brazilian Navy, one of only three navies in the world equipped with CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off, Barrier Arrested Recovery) naval aircraft. The French Carrier Air Group (CAG) is a powerful, flexible and agile force currently built around the Dassault Aviation Rafale M multirole fighter. Two Aéronavale Rafale M front-line squadrons, Flottilles 11F and 12F, are fully operational with the Rafale. They took turns deploying on board the Charles de Gaulle nuclear powered aircraft-carrier but once the Super Etendards have been retired from Flottille 17F the carrier deploys with two Rafale squadrons at a time. With the delivery from 2013 of the first Tranche 4 Rafales the Marine Nationale now fields the latest variant of the Rafale.

Typical aircraft detachment in the carrier:

  • Ten Rafale M strike/Fighter/Recce for each flotille.
  • Two Flottille 4F E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
  • Two French Air Force EC725 Caracal combat search and rescue helicopters,
  • Two Dauphin and one Alouette III plane guard helicopters.

Advanced training for Naval Aviation pilots is held in US Navy bases, procedures are common, expertise levels are comparable and aircraft are purposefully fitted with fully inter-operable interfaces (catapult launch bars, arresting hooks and refueling connectors). Joint training missions are usually flown by the French and US navies in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and in the Indian Ocean.[citation needed]

The navy lacks tanker and COD aircraft. When needed allied tanker aircraft supported the French Navy fighters. US Navy C-2A Greyhounds have qualified with French Navy carrier and two C-2A(R)Greyhounds from VRC-40 were loaned to France in 2011 to support Aeronavale in NATO intervention in Libya.[citation needed]

Complete and correct as of June 2016.

Aircraft Photo Origin Role Version Quantity[1] Note
Fixed-wing aircraft
Rafale M Rafale 070412-N-8157C-542.JPEG  France Multirole fighter aircraft F1
All Rafale F1 to be upgraded to F3 standard by early 2017. Last two Rafale M to be delivered in 2020/2021.[2][3]
Grumman E-2C Hawkeye FS CdG Super Hawkeye.jpg  United States AEW&C C 4 All planes updated to latest configuration to increase commonality and interoperability with U.S. Navy E-2D.
Atlantique II Breguet.atlantic.6112.fronton.arp.jpg  France Maritime patrol [note 1]
5 other Atlantique II are held in reserve.
Dassault Falcon 50 Dassault.falcon.50m.fairford.arp.jpg  France Surveillance, reconnaissance Mi
Dassault Falcon 200 Guardian Dassault Falcon 20 Gardian.jpg  France Surveillance, reconnaissance 5
Dassault Falcon 10 Falcon 10 MER.JPG  France Communications & Transport aircraft MER 6
Embraer EMB 121 Xingu EMB-121 marine.JPG  Brazil Transport aircraft & Trainer aircraft A
Mudry CAP 10 CAP-10 Marine-Tours-2008.jpg  France Trainer aircraft B 7
Cirrus SR20 Cirrus.sr20.g-cdly.arp.jpg  United States Trainer aircraft 3
NH90 Caiman NH90 Caïman Marine à Paris.JPG  France Maritime helicopter
Search and rescue
17 [4][5] 10 more on order.[6]
Westland Lynx Lynx helo 2.jpg  United Kingdom Maritime helicopter Mk.2 (FN) 21
Eurocopter AS565 Panther Panther-051306-N-9546C-001.jpg  France Maritime helicopter SA 19 Panther is the military version of the Dauphin
Eurocopter SA 365 Dauphin FS CdG Dauphin.jpg  France Search and rescue F-1
Aérospatiale Alouette III Alouette 3 2.jpg  France Utility aircraft SA316B


Active bases of the French naval air arm (status 2013).


The French Naval Aviation has four components:


Operational squadrons are known as Flottilles and normal consist of 12 aircraft :

  • 1F to 10F are carrier based anti-submarine squadrons
  • 11F to 20F are fighter and attack squadrons
  • 21F to 30F are maritime patrol squadrons
  • 31F to 39F are helicopter squadrons

Shore-based training and transport squadrons are known as Escadrilles de Servitude :

  • 1S to 19S are communications squadrons
  • 20S to 29S are helicopters squadrons
  • 50S to 59S are training squadrons
Squadron Insignia Type Aircraft Base Role Notes
4F Fixed wing E-2C Hawkeye BAN Lann Bihoue Carrier Airborne Early Warning
Flottille 11F.png
Fixed wing Rafale M BAN Landivisiau Strike Fighter
Flottille 12F.png
Fixed wing Rafale M BAN Landivisiau Strike Fighter
Insigne 17F.jpg
Fixed wing Rafale M BAN Landivisiau Strike Fighter Ended conversion to Rafale M on June 2016.
Blason 21F.jpg
Fixed wing Atlantique II BAN Lann Bihoue Maritime patrol detachments at Dakar and Djibouti
23F Fixed wing Atlantique II BAN Lann Bihoue Maritime patrol
24F Fixed wing Falcon 50 M BAN Lann Bihoue Maritime patrol
25F Fixed wing Falcon 200 Guardian GAM Faa’a Maritime patrol detachment at Nouméa
Blason 28F.jpg
Fixed wing Embraer Xingu BAN Lann Bihoue Utility
31F Rotary NH90 Caiman BAN Hyeres Search and Rescue
Emblème de la flottille 33F.jpg
Rotary NH90 Caiman BAN Lanveoc Anti-Submarine Warfare / Search and Rescue
34F Rotary Westland Lynx BAN Lanveoc Anti-Submarine Warfare To convert to NH90 Caiman
35F Rotary Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, Alouette III BAN Hyeres Search and Rescue detachments at La Rochelle, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Faa’a
36F Rotary Eurocopter AS565 Panther BAN Hyeres Small ship flights
10S Rotary/ Fixed wing/UAV Alouette III, Westland Lynx, Schiebel S-100 Serval BAN Hyeres Experimental
22S Rotary Alouette III BAN Lanveoc Utility
50S Fixed wing SR20 and CAP-10 BAN Lanveoc Elementary flying training
57S Fixed wing Falcon 10 M BAN Landivisiau Training (Jets)


Former Aéronavale aircraft[edit]


The Gourdou Leseurre GL.832 HY was a 1930s light shipboard reconnaissance floatplane.
The Latécoère 290 was a torpedo bomber floatplane produced during the 1930s.
The Martin P5M-2 Marlin served in the French navy between 1959 and 1964.
The Canard Voisin is the first seaplane used by the French Navy.


From 1951 to 1956, 164 Grumman Avengers were delivered to French Naval Aviation. They remained in service until 1965.
The Corsair F4U-7 was the first new aircraft delivered to the French Navy after 1945. It saw action during the Indochina war, Algerian war and operation Musketeer.
During the Algerian War of independence, the French Navy flew Lockheed Neptunes on surveillance patrol to fight weapons smuggling by sea.
The Crusader was the air superiority jet aircraft of the French navy for 35 years.




  1. ^ 12 Atlantique have been modernized between 2008 and 2012.


  1. ^ "Chiffres clés de la Défense 2015" September 3rd, 2015 (in French)
  2. ^ "44 Rafale Marine auront été livrés fin 2015". Mer et Marine. Retrieved 2016-01-24. 
  3. ^ "Les Super Etendard français retirés du service". 2016-07-13. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  4. ^ 17th NH90
  5. ^ Marine Nationale NH90
  6. ^ "Un 16ème Caïman Marine pour l’aéronautique navale". Mer et Marine. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 

External links[edit]