The French Air Force (French: Armée de l'Air (ALA), literally Air Army) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. Formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, it is the world’s oldest military air service.
The organization of the ALA is based on having complete control of air operations and on flexibility in execution, both in peacetime and at war. As most modern defence organizations at the moment (2007) the ALA is busy reorganizing itself (see Future).
After an absence lasting several decades the French president, Mr Sarkozy, confirmed that France will rejoin NATO again
From this point of view, the ALA is still organized into 3 levels:
The President of France, currently Nicolas Sarkozy, is Chief of the armed forces. He is responsible for the overall defence policy. The Prime Minister is responsible for national defence and the Minister of Defence is responsible for the execution of the 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-Air Force (CEMAA) determines the air force doctrines and advises the CEMA how to deploy French aerial 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).
Greater Operational and Organic Commands
In the ALA the 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). These commands are subject to change before 2010 (see future).
CFAS - Strategic Air Command
All the air forces nuclear assets are placed in this command which is responsible for the operational condition and the eventual deployment of these weapons. The CFAS is one of the two pillars of the French nuclear deterrent, but is to be dissolved in 2010. CFAS has 3 squadrons of dual capable Mirage 2000N
fighter/bombers capable of carrying the nuclear Air-Sol Moyenne Portée
stand-off missile and a squadron of C-135FR
in-flight refuelling tankers at its disposal to carry out their missions. The commanding CFAS general is still responsible for the execution of the mission.
CDAOA - Air Defence and Air Operations Command
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.
CFA - Joint Air Command
A new command which has been inaugurated in 2006. It is responsible to ensure and to maintain the operational condition of all branches of the air force now and for the future. At present day the CFA consists of
- 16 fighter squadrons and 25 air defence squadrons
- 1 electronic warfare squadron
- simulator and instruction centres
All over its airbases on the European continent and abroad the CFA counts 16000 personnel (male/female), 279 fighter aircraft, 122 transport aircraft and 85 helicopters.
CASSIC - Air Surveillance, Information and Communication Systems Command
This command has already been dissolved and the 8100 personnel, working in the former CASSIC have been transferred to the other existing air force commands and to the DIRISI, the interim joint defence communication and intelligence organization.
CDAOA, based in Paris and Lyon, plans and executes all air operations. Lots of ex-CASSIC personnel are embedded here to develop exercises and operations abroad.
CFA prepares the forces. Since 2007, 38% ex-CASSIC personnel rejoined the airspace control brigade which also controls all ground-air defence units.
CSFA, based in Bordeaux, guards the technical and logistical assets. Since 2006 it took over lots of ex-CASSIC projects.
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 to keep them on a satisfying level as well as the officers and NCO training. CEAA is also responsible for all schools and training facilities.
CFPSAA - Operational Support Command
This command is responsible for the operational readiness and the deployment of all base protecting squadrons, dog-handlers, fire brigades, paratroopers and NBC and decontamination personnel.
The air base command levels are the combat assets of the ALA, whose operational activity never cease. 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 defense radar systems. It is supported by bases, which are supervised and maintained by staff, centres of operations, warehouses, workshops, and schools.
The bases are organized for flexibility and rapid response. Both in France and abroad, bases have almost similar infrastructure to provide standardized 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. It ensures the defence of French interests. On average, a base platform, made up of about 1500 personnel (nearly 3500 people including family), provides a yearly economic boost of about 60 million euros. Consequently, determining the sites for air bases constitutes a major part of regional planning.
- BA 102 Dijon airbase. Air defence sqns equipped with Mirage 2000-5.
- BA 103 Cambrai airbase. Various units mainly equipped with Mirage 2000 RDI interceptors.
- BA 105 Évreux airbase. Command, operational and logistic support.
- BA 107 Villacoublay airbase. Various helicopter and heavy air transport units.
- BA 110 Creil airbase. Heavy air transport units with Casa CN-235/100 for short distance and with Airbus A-310-300.
- BA 112 Reims airbase. Tactical recce sqn with Mirage F1 CR.
- BA 113 Saint-Dizier airbase. Transition sqn for the new Dassault Rafale C.
- BA 116 Luxeuil airbase. CFA nuclear strike stockpile. Strike sqns equipped with Mirage 2000N.
- BA 117 Paris airbase. Central command.
- BA 123 Orléans airbase. Former CFAP and CASSIC command location. CFPSAA operational command.
- BA 128 Metz airbase. Location of the new CFA command, mixed air transport sqn.
- BA 132 Colmar-Meyenheim. Tactical sqns equipped with Mirage F1-CT
- BA 133 Nancy Ochey airbase. Fighter sqns 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 E-3F unit. Inflight refueling C135 FR unit
- BA 705 Tours airbase. Fighterpilot training school.
- BA 901 Drachenbronn. Air defense radar command reporting center.
- BA 921 Taverny. Strategic Air Command (CFAS)
- DA 273 Romorantin air detachment. Logistic unit.
- DA 922 - Doullens air detachment. Disbanded command reporting center.
- BA 101 Toulouse airbase. Instruction air transport unit Transall C-160 NG and Puma SA 330.
- BA 106 Mérignac airbase. Transport support base for the air staff.
- BA 115 Orange airbase. Air defense sqns Mirage 2000D and transition sqn Mirage 2000B.
- BA 118 Mont de Marsan airbase. Home of CEAM, the Air Force military experience center, Air defense radar command reporting centre, instruction centre for air defence control.
- BA 120 Cazaux airbase. Air force airplane stockpile.
- BA 125 Istres airbase. CFAS nuclear strike stockpile. Strike sqns equipped with Mirage 2000N. Transall C-160G strategic communication flight. Inflight refueling unit with C-135FR. CEAM, the Air Force military experience centre.
- BA 126 Solenzara airbase. Fighter gunnery range. SAR unit.
- BA 278 Ambérieu airbase. Logistic support base.
- BA 701 Salon de Provence. Officer instruction school. Enlisted instruction school.
- BA 709 Cognac airbase. Basic flight training school.
- BA 721 Rochefort-Saint-Agnant. NCO school.
- BA 942 Lyon Mont-Verdun. Air defence radar command reporting centre. CNOA location. National Air Operations Command.
- BA 943 Nice Roquebrune. Air defence radar command reporting centre.
- DA 204 Mérignac. Logistic detachment.
- EETAA 722 Saintes. Air force electronic and technical instruction.
- EPA 749 Grenoble. Air force child support school
- BA 160 Dakar Ouakam, Africa. Mixed units.
- BA 181 Reunion Island. Mixed units.
- BA 188 Djibouti, Africa. Mixed units.
- Air elements Libreville and N’djamena. Helicopter units.
- BA 190 French Polynesia. Mixed unit.
- BA 365 Martinique. Mixed unit.
- BA 367 Guyana, South America. Mixed units.
- BA 376 Nw Caledonia. Helicopter unit.
Many consider the Armée de l'Air to have been the first professional air force in the world. The French took active interest in developing the air force from 1909 and had the first WWI fighter pilots. During the interwar years, however, particularly in the 1930s, the quality fell when compared with the Luftwaffe, which crushed the French during the Battle of France.
In the post–WWII era, the French made a concerted and successful effort to develop a home grown aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way with unique and effective delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Mirage series of jet fighters. The Mirage repeatedly demonstrated its deadly abilities in the Six-Day War and the Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular and well-sold aircraft in the history of military aviation along the way. Currently, the French Air Force is expanding and replacing. The French are awaiting the A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in developmental stages, and the integration of the new Rafale multi-role jet fighter, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.
The French Air Force operates a wide-ranging fleet of aircraft, fighters, transport aircraft, passenger transport and helicopters. It currently maintains some 560 aircraft. 150 comprise the air mobility force (CFAP) and include aircraft such as C-160
and the C-130 Hercules
. The CFAP also includes 80 helicopters like the Super Puma
and the Ecureuil
. 330 fighter aircraft are incorporated into 19 squadrons with different missions. Finally, the French Air Force has a fleet of aircraft, including Alpha Jet
, Xingu, Epsilon, and Tucano
, to meet training requirements. These air assets are supported by ground units and a sophisticated infrastructure.
The Air 2010 concept allows for 300 fighters, mainly composed of the new generation multirole combat airplane Rafale.
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Service entry
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Note
| Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma || || SAR
transport helicopter || SA 330 || 29 || 1974 ||
| Airbus A310
|| || tactical transport || A310-300 || 3 || 1994 ||
| Airbus A319
|| || VIP transport || A319 ACJ || 2 || 2002 ||
| Airbus A340
|| || tactical transport || || 2 || 2006 ||
| Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
|| || refuelling || C-135FR || 14 || 1985 ||
| Boeing E-3 Sentry
|| || airborne early warning || E-3F || 4 || 1991 ||
| CASA CN-235
|| || tactical transport || CN-235-200
CN-235-200M || 8
11 || 1991 ||
| Dassault Falcon 50
|| || VIP transport || Mystère 50 || 4 || 1979 ||
| Dassault Falcon 900
|| || VIP transport || Falcon 900 || 2 || 1987 ||
| Dassault Mirage 2000
|| || multirole
AD || total Mirage 2000
Mirage 2000-5 || 266
37 || 1983
| Dassault Mirage F1
|| || close air support
case || total Mirage F1
Mirage F1CT || 109
55 || 1980
| Dassault Rafale
|| || multirole
multirole|| Rafale B
Rafale C || 26
8 || 2006 || Rafale M only operated by French Navy
| Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet
|| || trainer || Alpha Jet E || 99 || 1979 ||
| de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
|| || utility transport || DHC-6 || 6 || 1978 ||
| Embraer EMB 121 Xingu
|| || trainer || EMB 121 || 35 || 1982 ||
| Embraer EMB 312 Tucano
|| || trainer || EMB 312 || 47 || 1993 ||
| Eurocopter AS 532 Cougar
|| || transport || total Cougar
EC 725 || 11
3 || 1980 ||
| Eurocopter AS 355 Ecureuil
|| || utility || AS 355 || 5 || 1984 ||
| Eurocopter AS 555 Fennec
|| || utility || AS 555AN || 43 ||1986 ||
| Grob G-120
|| || trainer || G120A-F || 2 (16 more to be delivered) || 2007 ||"
| Jodel D-140
|| || trainer || || || 1966 ||
| Lockheed C-130 Hercules
|| || tactical transport || C-130H
C-130H-30 || 5
9 || 1987
| Mudry CAP 10
|| || trainer || CAP 10B || 7 || || phased out
| Socata TB
|| || trainer || TB 30 Epsilon || 90 ||1985 ||
| Socata TBM
|| || liaison transport || TBM 700 || 17 || 1992 ||
| Transall C-160
|| || test flying
tactical transport || C-160F
C-160NG || 1
55 || 1967
| Walter Extra 300
|| || aerobatic training || Extra 300SC || 2 || 2008 ||
Like most modern defense organizations the French air force is reorganizing its commands, units and assets. This project to streamline the forces is called Air 2010
, which is the year of the deadline of all transitions.
The main targets of this project are to simplify the command structure, to regroup all military and civil air force functions and to rationalize and optimize all air force units.
The solution to reach these aims seems to be changing the organization into 5 major commands, instead of the former 13, and to disband several commands and units. These are the future air force commands.
- CDAOA (air defense and air operations command)
- CFA (air force command)
- CSFA (logistic command)
- DRHAA (human resource direction)
- SAGF (administration and finance service)