Tag Archives: French Air Force

Atlantic Trident 17 brought together in type and capability the most formidable combination of fighter aircraft ever assembled.

Atlantic Trident 17 Drives a Higher Level of Integration.

The exercise held April 12 – 28 at Joint Base Langley-Eustice (JBLE) included a “Blue Air” force of USAF F-22 Raptors of the 1st Fighter Wing (FW) JBLE and F-35 Lightning IIs from Eglin AFB, Typhoons of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Rafales of the French Air Force/Armée de l’Air (FAF).

The adversaries or “Red Air” included USAF F-15E Strike Eagles of the 391st FS “Bold Tigers” Mountain Home AFB, ID and T-38A Talons of the 71st Fighter Training Squadron (FTS) “Ironmen” based at JBLE.  Additional assets included the E-3A Sentry from Tinker AFB, OK and a variety of tankers, including a FAF KC-135 and KC-10 of the 305th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.

Aside from the primary training objectives the exercise also provided the opportunity to commemorate 100 years of aerial combat cooperation between the French and US stemming back to WWI.

From the outside, looking in the lethal capabilities of Blue Air appeared to be overwhelming, with Red Air offering little challenge.  However, one must consider that the 71st FTS “Ironmen” fly daily as adversaries against the Raptor and possess pilots with Raptor experience.  These factors (along with the sheer numbers of Red Air fielded and their ability to “regenerate” on range) provide Red Air with the best likelihood to exploit any vulnerabilities or errors with Blue Air’s tactics – regardless their impressive platforms.

Towards the end of the exercise The Aviationist sat down with Colonel Pete “Coach” Fesler, 1 FW Commander to discuss the exercise and the evolution of air combat in the context of 5th Gen aircraft.

Fesler noted that Atlantic Trident ’17 took integration beyond historical practice. On a tactical level integration historically involved a serial employment of aircraft (such as a Combat Air Patrol of RAF Typhoons) or geographical deconfliction of aircraft (such as FAF assets attacking ground targets in a designated area).  However, as Fesler explained starting with Red Flag 17-1 integration has gone deeper, involving a variety of platforms in the same airspace at the same time.  Integration between platforms also considered the various loiter time and weapons load/type for a given platform over a given vulnerability period (vul – the period of time when an aircraft is vulnerable to harm).

RAF Typhoons on the ramp with Strike Eaglesat Joint Base Langley-Eustis during Atlantic Trident ’17.

While not being specific, it is not difficult to envision a mixed strike package of Rafales and F-35s, a combat air patrol (CAP) of Typhoons and Raptors (or mix and match on any given mission set).  This level of integration leads to big challenges for an adversary who may easily be fixated on attacking a detected Gen 4.5 aircraft, while getting blindsided by a 5th Gen platform or be distracted by a 5th Gen threat “sensed” in the area and get bounced by a very capable Typhoon or Rafale. Hesitation in such air to air combat will most likely be punished with an ending in a ball of flames.

Dassualt Rafales of the Armée de l’air – French Air Force on the ramp at JBLE during Atlantic Trident ’17

The abundance of information available on the battlefield today drives a much higher level of integration.  Fesler noted that multiple people/assets may be involved with the finding, identifying and targeting portion of an air to air encounter. The pilot may take care of the final step and fire the missile that kills the target, but wouldn’t have found their way to that merge unless the assets got them there.

Atlantic Trident ’17 provided an opportunity to demonstrate how the advancement of aircraft, tactics and integration is driving change in the function of the fighter force.  For many years, the F-22 Raptor has utilized its superior sensors and SA to take the role of “quarterback” during a vul.  Given the integration of the F-35 and with the capabilities of the Typhoon and Rafale, the notion of a “single quarterback” is changing.  Frankly, per Fesler, the quarterback notion is starting to become almost a misnomer now in that we have multiple quarterbacks and it’s less about one individual directing everything and more about multiple nodes of information being able to provide the key pieces of information at the right time to influence the fight.  It is a foreboding thought for an adversary who now faces a team, where every position has the intelligence/capability of a hall of fame quarterback, even while performing their specific role at the highest level.

F-22 Raptors of the 1st FW JBLE wait for launch clearance at the EOR during Atlantic Trident ’17.

Performing at a high level is one thing, altering the playing field is another.  The 5th Gen aircraft has done that very thing, altering the classic air to air engagement in a fundamental way.  Fesler noted, the classic approach of shooting ones missiles and turning before the adversary can get a shot is predicated on the fact that the adversary sees you.  In the 4th gen world that is the case.  Ideally the pilot would like to be able to shoot, let their missile do the work and get away before the adversary can get a missile off.  In the 5th Gen world, the adversary doesn’t necessarily know where you are coming from.  The 5th Gen pilot may shoot a missile and monitor to make sure it is effective.  If the missile misses for any number of reasons, they are in good position for a follow-up shot.

F-22 Raptor of the 1st Fighter Wing JBLE taxis towards launch during Atlantic Trident ’17.

That is one of the fundamental difference between 4th Gen fighters and 5th Gen fighters.  In general, in the 5th Gen world the adversary doesn’t really know where you are coming from.  They may have a general idea but not a lot of specifics.  For 5th Gen pilots it’s a good place to be, to be able to roam around the battlefield faster than the speed of sound in an airplane that is largely undetectable all while your airplane is building a 3 dimensional picture of everything within a couple hundred miles of you. Ouch.

F-35A from Eglin AFB moves towards launch for a vul during Atlantic Trident ’17 exercise held at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.

Aside from the exceptional technical aspects that fascinate and draw attention, Felser ultimately notes that his takeaways from Atlantic Trident ‘17 fall back to the human aspect; “fighter pilots are fighter pilots regardless of what their uniforms look like.  Aircraft maintainers are aircraft maintainers regardless of what their uniforms look like.  There are some universal experiences, beliefs and cultures that transcend the national boundaries in this and that’s one of the things I have enjoyed out of both Tri-lateral exercises (2015 & AT ‘17) that we’ve had.  The man in the machine still makes a difference. You can have the most lethal fighter in the world but if you make a mistake a far inferior aircraft can shoot you out of the sky. Training still matters.  If that were not the case, we’d buy the machines, park them and never fly them and when war kicked off jump in them and go and fly. That in fact is not the case and you can lose a war with the best equipment if you don’t know how to use it right, if your tactics aren’t sound, if your skills aren’t automatic, you can still lose.”

F-15E of the 391st FS “Bold Tigers” Mountain Home AFB, ID launches from JBLE for Red Air Vul during Atlantic Trident ’17

Atlantic Trident ‘17 reveals the way forward; advanced integration, people making a difference, and high level training.  This rationale drives the Air Force ensuring it is ready with the highest capability for the next conflict on day 1.

Fourth and fifth-generation aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, French air force and Royal air force fly in a training airspace during ATLANTIC TRIDENT 17 near Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., April 26, 2017. The F-35 Lightning II was incorporated in the exercise, along with the F-22 Raptor and fourth-generation assets to develop tactics, techniques and procedures that can be used during future coalition fights. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to Jeffrey Hood 633 ABW PA and the entire 633 ABW Public Affairs Team who were instrumental and exceptional with their support; Col. Pete “Coach” Fesler, 1 Fighter Wing Commanding Officer, and the entire 1 FW; the entire team at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, professional and gracious throughout the visit.  You set the bar, our service people are the finest.

Image credit: Todd Miller, unless otherwise stated.

 

More than 60 combat aircraft from eight NATO nations take part in Exercise Frisian Flag in the Netherlands

Frisian Flag 2017 was a large scale exercise organised by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

From Mar. 27 to Apr. 7, Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands hosted the tactical aircraft taking part in Ex. Frisian Flag 2017.

The purpose of the drills was preparing the participating units for a modern conflict or crisis support operation by strengthening cooperation between air arms of multiple NATO countries called to undertake joint training missions twice a day.

Whilst Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, hosted the “tacair”, the supporting tankers (French Air Force C-135FR, Italian Air Force KC-767A, German Air Force A-310MRTT and RNlAF KDC-10) were based at Eindhoven airport in the south, with a NATO E-3 AWACS flying from Geilenkirchen, Germany, and a French AF E-3D from Avord, France.

Special Viper BAF

Portuguese F-16 about to land

The two-week long drills saw the assets split into two teams: the “Red Force”, that included the RAF Tornado GR4s and the French Mirage 2000s, and the “Blue Force” made of the Florida ANG F-15s, the Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as F-16s from Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.

RNlAF F-16 on final

A 31 Sqn Tornado GR4

FAF Mirage 2000

According to the RAF 31 Sqn that posted a short debrief after returning from the drills, missions flown during Frisian Flag included air defense, protection of other aircraft and attacking of ground targets on land and sea in a high threat environment, which included opposing fighter aircraft and ground based Patriot and SA-6 missile batteries.

Four ship about to break for the downwind leg

GAF Typhoon special tail

Photographers at work at Leeuwarden

All the images in this post were taken at Leeuwarden airbase by photographer Estelle Calleja.

A Dutch Viper in final

RNlAF F-16 during the base turn

Image credit: Estelle Calleja

Check out these stunning photographs of the French display team flying over New York City today

The Patrouille de France has officially started his American tour flying over the Statue of Liberty in New York City. And here are some great images.

On Mar. 25, at 12 pm local time, the Patrouille de France display team kicked off its first ever U.S. tour flying over the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

The formation of eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet twin-engine two-seat jets flew over Manhattan trailing an A400M airlifter belonging to the Escadron de Transport 1/61 Touraine from BA 123 Orléans-Bricy, that acted as camera-ship and from where the cool photographs you can find in this post were taken.

Patrouille de France has reached the U.S. via Keflavik, Kangerlussuaq (Greenland), Bagotville, and is scheduled to perform a fly-by in Washington DC on Mar. 29 before taking part in 9 full airshows plus a number of arrival/departure, fly-by and special events across the country.

Here’s a selfie from the cockpit of Athos Leader, the team’s #1.

Image credit: French Air Force / Patrouille de France

 

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The French Air Force has unveiled a new Mirage 2000 in special color scheme to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Ouadi Doum raid

Take a look at this awesome “desert” special color that celebrates the 30th anniversary of a daring raid carried out by four Jaguars against a Libyan base in Chad.

On Mar. 1, 2017, the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) celebrated the 30th anniversary of the second raid on Ouadi Doum at the Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey, home of the EC3/3 Ardennes.

During the ceremony, a new special-colored aircraft was unveiled: Mirage 2000D 652/3-XN was given a two-tone color scheme similar to the desert camouflage livery sported by the squadron’s Sepecat Jaguar attack aircraft that carried out the raid in 1987.

The target was the Flat Face air-defense radar at Ouadi Doum, a Libyan airbase in Chad, that France needed to wipe out to restrain Gaddhafi ambitions in the region.

The successful strike on the Libyan radar involved two Mirage F1CR belonging to the ER1/33, four Mirage of the EC3/12, four Jaguars with EC3/3 (one of those launched the AS-37 missile that destroyed the radar) and one Breguet Atlantique from the French Navy used as bait to force the Libyans to turn on the Flat Face.

Image credit: French Air Force

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French Aerobatic Team Patrouille de France Announces Official U.S. Schedule

World’s Oldest Aerobatic Team to Fly 9 Full Demos Plus Flyovers in USA.

The world’s oldest aerobatic demonstration team, the French Patrouille de France, has announced their official flight demonstration calendar for their first ever U.S. tour. The team has scheduled 9 full airshow flight demonstrations in the United States plus a number of arrival/departure, fly-by and special events.

Patrouille de France began flying in 1931 using an early radial engine, high wing monoplane, the Morane-Saulnier MS-230. The MS-230 was an exceptional aircraft for the time and one of the first tandem cockpit single engine monoplanes, paving the way for modern tactical aircraft. It was an ideal demonstration aircraft then operated by French military flight instructors at early airshows.

The team disbanded as a result of WWII but reformed in 1954 and began operating the U.S. built Republic F-84, also flown by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The team went on to fly the indigenous French built Dassault Ouragon, the Dassault Mystere IV, the Fouga Magister and finally their current aircraft, the nimble and pretty Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet light attack and advanced trainer twin-engine two-seat jet.

Patrouille de France will fly a unique demonstration for U.S. airshow fans since the team operates a large formation of eight Alpha Jets compared to only six demonstration aircraft by U.S. jet teams the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. Some opposing maneuvers in their routine similar to U.S. team “knife edge” solo passes use four opposing aircraft instead of two making for a sensational photo opportunity.

According to AirShowStuff.com this is the United States demo schedule for Patrouille de France in 2017:

2017 North American Tour Appearance Schedule – Patrouille de France

March 19th: Arrive Bagotville, QC
March 25th: Statue of Liberty Flyby, New York
March 27th: Washington DC flyby and reception with French Ambassador
April 1st and 2nd: Melbourne Air Show, FL
April 4th: Sun-n-Fun Airshow, Lakeland, FL
April 5th and 6th: Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of US entry into WW1, Kansas City, MO
April 7th-9th: Maxwell AFB Airshow, AL
April 10th-12th: Visit w/USN Blue Angels at NAS Pensacola, FL
April 12th: Flyby over Trescal Factory, Dallas, TX
April 12th: Refueling in Santa Fe, NM
April 13th: Grand Canyon, AZ Flyby/photoshoot
April 13th-16th: California Capitol Airshow, Sacramento & Golden Gate Bridge Flyby in San Francisco, CA
April 17th-18th: Visit w/USAF Thunderbirds at Nellis AFB, NV
April 19th: Refueling at Peterson AFB and USAF Academy Flyby, CO
April 19th: Refueling at Scott AFB, IL
April 20th-21st: VIP Event at Langley AFB, VA
April 22nd-23rd: Airshow at Stewart ANG Base, NY
April 28th-29th: NATO Tattoo in Norfolk, VA
April 30th: Wings Over Gatineau Airshow, Gatineau, QC
May 1st: Montreal, QC
May 2nd: Quebec City, QC
May 4th: Departure from Bagotville, QC

In celebration of the U.S. tour the demonstration aircraft will feature a special U.S. themed paint scheme recently unveiled on the official Patrouille de France Facebook page. The scheme features a new tail livery with stars and stripes.

Image credit: Patrouille de France

 

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