Armée de l’air celebrated the 50th anniversary of the FAS (forces aériennes stratégiques) with three special colored planes.
On Oct. 3, with a ceremony held at Istres airbase, the French Air Force celebrated 50 years of French deterrence by the Forces Aériennes Strategiques which are responsible for Paris’s nuclear weapons.
The first nuclear alert took place on Oct. 8, 1964 with a Dassault Mirage IV, armed with AN-11 nuclear bombs, supported by a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker of the so-called Force de Frappe (French for Strike Force).
French assets of the FAS have been on continouos alert since then, an achievement marked with three special colors: a Rafale, a Mirage 2000N and a C-135FR.
Two are the nuclear squadrons of the French Air Force, each consisting of 20 aircraft: EC (Escadron de chasse) 1/91 Gascogne at Saint-Dizier equipped with the Rafale B, and EC 2/4 Lafayette at Istres equipped with the Mirage 2000N.
NATO Tiger Meet is an annual exercise that gathers squadrons sporting Tiger (or feline) emblems. Planes that attend it, usually get painted in tiger outfits. As happened during 2014 edition in Germany.
NATO Tiger Meet (NTM) is a two-week multi-national mid-size exercise that includes all types of air-to-air and air-to-ground and a wide variety of support missions, comprising CSAR and large COMAOs (Composite Air Operations).
NTM2014 (with spotters days on Jun. 19 and 23) was held at Schleswig – Jagel, in northern Germany.
The “collective” aerial refueling certification activity, organized by Italy with the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE), falls within a series of European initiatives to develop and implement common operational capacities.
Aerial refuelers are considered among the most important assets in any military air campaign.
The recent Air War in Libya highlighted the lack of tankers among the European partners.
The possibility to work together and share these important assets in a multinational context can help optimizing resources and projecting the air power in a more flexible and immediate way when the need arise.
This concept, dubbed “pooling and sharing” is even more important in light of the ever shrinking Defense budgets.
The activity conducted by the Swedish and French planes with the tanker of the Aeronautica Militare, belonging to the 14° Stormo, based at Pratica di Mare, but flown by aircrews of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Flying Test Wing), is an important step toward future co-operation between Italy, France, Sweden and all the other operators of the aircraft involved in the certification (for instance Hungary and Czech Republic that fly the Gripen), that will allow these European countries to work together in any future military operation.
The Boeing KC-767A (whose revised version, under the designation KC-46 was selected by the U.S. Air Force in February 2011 for replacing its ageing KC-135s), had its war first at the end of May 2011, few months after the delivery to the Italian Air Force.
During Operation Unified Protector, the new tanker, with a limited flight envelope and not yet certified with all types of receivers, refueled only the Italian assets (using the central fuel hose).
Although it’s in French language, the following video released by the French MoD is quite interesting as it shows the FAF C-135FR refueling ops from N’Djamena, Chad.
The French tanker are quite similar to the U.S. KC-135s. Still, the refueling boom is attached to a basket since FAF planes use the hose and drogue system and get the fuel through a probe.
The footage lets you see the Mirage 2000s and Rafale Air supporting Operation Serval being refueled on their way to the target area in northern Mali.
As happened in Libya, the Mali Air War is suffering from tanker shortage. Even if only a few combat planes are involved in the air strikes, the French Air Force is not equipped with a tanker force capable to sustain a limited amount of attack sorties.
That’s why the U.S. has dispatched some of its KC-135 from RAF Mildenhall and other nations have offered aerial refuelers.
Quoting the Libyan Air Force Chief of Staff Saqr Geroushi a recent article by the Libyan Herald reported that proposals have been drawn up to re-equip Tripoli’s dilapidated fleet with a special consideration given to those countries that assisted Libya during the last year’s air war: France, UK, and the U.S.
Putting a few more details into his comments, Geroushi said that the Libyan Arab Air Force is looking to purchase two squadrons of French Rafale, along with a number of French Mirage F-1 aircraft (to bolster those they already have). The Libyans also plan to buy Eurofighter Typhoons from the UK as well as some more C-130 cargo planes and Ch-47 Chinook helicopters from the United States.
Image credit: Dassault Aviation
Therefore, although they have been challenging each other in the most important bids all around the world (and they could be considered a bit redundant as well) the Typhoon and Rafale multi-role fighters could soon operate under the same flag.
The new aircraft will probably replace most of the remaining 28 aircraft (some of those are old Mig fighters) and 9 helicopters most of which have seen better days.
Geroushi said that the plan is to base the Typhoons at Tobruk and Benina airbase in Benghazi, with the Rafale and Mirage jets flying from Gordabaya and Wattya military air bases. Furthermore, all contracts that were signed under the previous regime will be reviewed and some would more than likely be cancelled.
The Libyan Air Force is currently flying regular sorties mostly border security type missions.