Tag Archives: French Air Force

Spectacular Flyover in Paris Overshadows French Formation Smoke Color Faux Pas

Sacré Bleu! French Aerobatic Team Admits Color Blunder in Amazing Bastille Flyover.

Following a week of spectacular flyovers beginning with the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force in London last week, the French were not to be outdone on the weekend of their annual national celebration of Bastille Day over Paris on Saturday, July 14, 2018.

On Saturday, formations of France’s most impressive aircraft overflew Paris and the picturesque Avenue des Champs-Élysées in an impressive review that accompanied a large military parade up the Avenue.

The French flyover and military parade, an annual spectacle in celebration of France’s independence, adds to the discussion of a proposed similar display in the U.S. that has largely been shouted down by opponents. Russia, North Korea, China, UK and France among other smaller nations stage conspicuous military parades with flyovers as a means of memorializing their armed forces, paying homage to their history and as a show of military might.

A new French Airbus Defense Industries A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport escorts delta-wing Mirage 2000 attack aircraft over Paris on Bastille Day. (Photo: Armee de l’Air)

The French flyover on the anniversary of the Bastille Day, the anniversary of the French uprising and storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 during the French Revolution, featured an impressive 64 aircraft. The display included the Dassault Rafale, Airbus Military A400M Atlas, the Boeing E-3F Sentry AWACS aircraft, the C-135FR tanker variant, and the beautiful delta-wing Dassault Mirage 2000s.

A formation of pretty Dassault Rafales over Paris on Bastille Day. (Photo: Armee de l’Air)

The French Armée de l’Air also produced a nice video short of the flyover from a CASA CN-235M light tactical transport.

There was a minor, widely publisized embarrassing moment for the normally outstanding French Patrouille Acrobatique de France flight demonstration team.

During the July 14, 2018 Fête Nationale or Bastille Day flyover in Paris the team added a ninth aircraft to the normal eight-plane formation. The additional aircraft, normally not a part of this wedge formation, flew in the right-wing position. As the team began their dedication flyover of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the picturesque Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile they actuated their traditional colored smoke trails. Normally the tricolor smoke trailing the aircraft mimics the blue, white, red pattern of the French national flag from the right of the formation to the left as viewed from the pilots’ perspective. But in this instance the extra ninth aircraft on the pilots’ right side of the formation mistakenly trailed red smoke instead of the correct blue smoke.

Some social media observers thought this may have been a purposeful modification to the display because the aircraft were carrying three members of France’s special forces on board for the celebration. But on Sunday following the flyover, French Air Force Spokesman Colonel Cyrille Duvivier, told news media, “It was not planned. It was an error.”

Colonel Duvivier went on to tell France’s Le Connexion news media that, “La Patrouille de France is normally eight planes, and on July 14, it presents as nine. The ninth plane is the ‘extra’…and it can take any position. It is the only one to have all three colors. We must ascertain why, precisely, this color was not correct.”

As it stands the color mismatch by the normally fashion conscious French was not the day’s only faux pas. Two motorcycle gendarmes collided and toppled over during an attempted impressive display of precision low-speed motorcycle handling along the same parade route. The two Gendarmes were seen scrambling on French television like keystone cops to get their heavy motorcycles upright. This is not typical of the French special police motorcycle forces, many of whom are working as anti-terrorist security forces during the Tour de France bicycle race being held across France during the month of July. For the second year, the forces at the tour de France include both the Garde Républicaine motorcycle unit and the elite French anti-terrorist police unit, the GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale).

France’s Patrouille de France flight demonstration team flies the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet light, twin-engine, two-seat jet trainer. The team has an illustrious record and flew a first-ever month and half demonstration tour at airshows in the United States and Canada in 2017. Interestingly, the USAF Thunderbirds participated in an exchange flyover in Paris in 2017 also as a salute to France on Bastille Day.

Top image: the French aerobatic team normally flies with blue, white and red smoke to mimic the French flag. (Photo: Twitter/Pandov Strochnis)

Here Are The Very First Photos Of The New A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport In French Air Force Livery

The Armée de l’air has just made public the first images of the new MRTT Phénix sporting French Air Force livery and markings.

With a post on their official FB page, the French Air Force has released the first air-to-air shots of the first A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport for France.

The aircraft, which will be known in French service as Phénix, is the first of nine ordered by the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (plus another three expected to be confirmed). The FAF A330 MRTT made its first flight in September 2017. It features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems and it was converted in Getafe from a standard A330 assembled in Toulouse.

The photographs just released appear to have been shot earlier today, based on the timestamp on the images. The depicted A330 sports the text “31 EARTS” below the front door just behind the cockpit, from the  31e escadre aérienne de ravitaillement et de transport stratégiques a French Air Force unit activated on Aug. 27, 2014 at Istres and currently equipped with the C-135FR, the text ARMEE DE L’AIR and the emblem of the GRV 02.091 on the tail.

A side view of the new A330 MRTT. The timestamp suggests the image was taken on Jul. 6, 2018, few hours before the photos were released on FB by the French Air Force FB page.

According to Airbus Defence and Space, the Phénix fleet will be equipped with a combination of the Airbus Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. Fifty-one A330 MRTTs have been ordered by eight nations.

Image credit: French Air Force. Make sure you visit their official FB page for more shots.

This Updated Chart Shows (Most Of) The Assets Involved in Apr. 14 Air Strike On Syria

This revised chart provides a good overview of the assets that took part in the Trilateral strikes on Syria last month.

As our readers already know, in the night between Apr. 13 and 14 the U.S., UK and France launched air strikes against Syria. By means of an OSINT analysis, we were able to determine the presence of most of the aircraft which took part in the operation, most of those could be tracked online via information in the public domain, hours before their involvement was officially confirmed.

Based on the “picture” we have contributed to build up, the popular one-man site CIGeography has prepared an interesting chart to visualize the type and number of the assets that have taken part or supported the strike. Although this is a revised version of an original chart posted on Apr. 29, it still contains some inaccuracies: for instance, just 6 out of 8 French C-135FR tankers are shows; at least 11 US tankers supported the American aircraft at various times; two RQ-4s are shown in the chart although we have tracked just one example [#10-2043 – a serial that is still subject to debate] and no other Global Hawk is known to have been committed, etc. Moreover, little is known about the aircraft that operated from the UAE and Qatar bases (including the EA-6B Prowlers, known to have supported the B-1s) and whose presence and number could not be determined by means of online flight tracking; still, it represents the only available chart that summarizes the types, the airbases and the weapons used to attack Syria last month.

Make sure you follow @CIGeography on Twitter and Facebook. You can also buy one of the posters based on this and other charts CIGeography has produced here.

Everything We Know (And No One Has Said So Far) About The First Waves Of Air Strikes On Syria.

Syria Air War Day 1 explained.

In the night between Apr. 13 and 14 aircraft from the U.S., UK and France launched a first wave of air strikes against ground targets in Syria. What follows is a recap based on OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence) since most of the aircraft involved in the raids could be tracked online via information in the public domain.

The “limited” action was preceded by intelligence gathering activity carried out by many of the assets that have been flying over eastern Mediterranean Sea lately. The first sign something was about to happen was the unusual presence of an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone tracking off Lebanon and Syria few hours before the first stand-off weapons landed on Syrian regime’s chemical sites/infrastructure.

The RQ-4, callsign “Forte 10” flew for several hours west of Lebanon, likely pointing its IMINT and SIGINT/ELINT sensors at the Syrian Air Defense batteries in heigthened readiness status. The drone then moved southwest, north of Egypt where it was joined by an RC-135V callsign Fixx74. It was about 23.20 GMT and it looked like the two ISR platforms, after collecting intelligence from a close position, were making room for the incoming bombers.

Here’s the position of Fixx74.

Among the aircraft coming in to conduct their bombing run from the Med, there were French Air Force Dassault Rafale jets from Saint Dizier AB, France, supported by C-135FR tankers and RAF Tornado GR4s with their Storm Shadow missiles, which launched from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. Whilst they did have their transponder turned off, the presence of the bombers and their accompanying tankers was leaked by their radio communications with civilian ATC agencies, such as Athinai ACC, that took place on unencrypted VHF frequencies broadcast on Internet on LiveATC.net.

Interestingly, at least two packages of fighters (each supposed to include 4x F-16Cs from 31FW and 4x F-15Cs from 48FW loaded with air-to-air missiles – actually, the second one included only 3 Vipers instead of 4) supported by KC-135 tankers, provided DCA (Defensive Counter Air) cover to the bombers and to the warships launching TLAMs.

After the first waves of attacks, that involved also U.S. Air Force B-1s from Al Udeid, another Global Hawk drone was launched from Sigonella, to perform BDA (Battle Damage Assessment).

The air strikes required a huge tanker support. There were 7 KC-135 and KC-10 tankers airborne over Southern Europe heading to the eastern Mediterranean Sea: something unusual for a Friday night. At the time of writing, there are 13 (!) tankers up: some are dragging the second package of U.S. F-15s and F-16s back to Aviano, whereas others are repositioning to RAF Mildenhall or Souda Bay after a night of operations:

Another interesting aircraft tracked online in the aftermath of the raid, is a Bombardier E-11A 11-9358 from 430th EECS stationed at Kandahar Afghanistan. The aircraft is a BACN (battlefield airborne communications) asset: BACN is technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to exchange tactical information and communicate. By orbiting at high-altitude, BACN equipped air assets provide a communications link between allies, regardless of the type of the supporting aircraft and in a non-line-of-sight (LOS) environment. The BACN system is also deployed onboard EQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs. Although we can’t be completely sure, it is quite likely that the aircraft was involved in the air strikes as well, providing data-bridging among the involved parties.

In the end, thanks to ADS-B, Mode-S and MLAT we got a pretty good idea of what happened during the first wave of air strikes on Syria. It’s obviously not complete, still quite interesting.

H/T to @AircraftSpots @Buzz6868 @CivMilAir @GDarkconrad @ItaMilRadar @planesonthenet and many others for providing details, hints, links and what was needed to prepare this article. You guys rock!

French C-135FR Tanker Refuels U.S. Air Force B-52 Bomber Over Europe In Rare International Refueling Operation

This is something you don’t see too often: a U.S. Stratofortress bomber refueled by a foreign tanker.

On Sept. 25, a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, refueled from a French Air Force C-135FR belonging to the Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 2/91 “Bretagne” from Istres.

B-52 bombers from the 2nd BW are currently deployed to Europe for three weeks to support Bomber Assurance and Deterrence operations (BAAD).

A French air force KC-135 Stratotanker, refuels a B-52 Stratofortress over Europe Sept. 25, 2017. The Stratofortress is deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom in support of bomber assurance and deterrence operations. U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe. Bomber missions demonstrate the credibility and flexibility of the military’s forces to address today’s complex, dynamic and volatile global security environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)

Based on the footage released by the U.S. Air Force, the C-135FR involved in the refueling mission was the example 471/31-CB that was tracked online while flying over the Tyrrhenian Sea in bound to the refueling area over the Mediterranean Sea via Mode-S/ADS-B transponder (H/T to @CivMilAir for catching the tanker)

Part of the track followed by a FAF C-135FR during the Sept. 25 mission tracked via Mode-S. Image credit: @CivMilAir

Although U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe, the bombers are almost always refueled by U.S. Air Force KC-135s or KC-10s.

Still, B-52s can be refueled by other types of tankers for testing or operative purposes.

For instance, an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 tanker (s/n 14-01) refueled a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52H-150-BW Stratofortress (s/n 60-0036) over California’s Mojave Desert on Mar. 5, 2007, as part of the tanker’s flying boom testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California (USA).

An Italian Air Force Boeing 767 tanker refuels an Edwards B-52 over California’s Mojave Desert on March 5, 2007. The tanker successfully extended its fifth generation, fly-by-wire air refueling boom and transferred fuel for the first time to another aircraft. (Photo by Jet Fabara)

And, as proved by Sept. 25 mission, the “Buff” can be refueled by the French C-135FR that is quite similar to the U.S. KC-135. Usually the FAF tankers operate with a basket attached to the flying boom since FAF planes use the hose and drogue system and get the fuel through an IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft. The latter, called the “Phénix” when in service, has been ordered in nine examples by France (plus an additional three that have not yet been confirmed.)

 

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