French Air and Space Force


Air and Space Force
Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace
Logo de l'Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace.svg
FoundedPart of the French Army in 1909 – An independent service arm in 1934
2 July 1934 (official)
Country France
TypeAir and space force
RoleAerial and space warfare
Size40,500 personnel (2021)[1][2]
578 aircraft,[2]
Part ofFrench Armed Forces
Engagements Edit this at Wikidata
Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space ForceGénéral d'armée aérienne Philippe Lavigne
RoundelRoundel of France.svg
Fin flashFin Flash of France.svg
Aircraft flown
E-3 Sentry
FighterRafale, Mirage 2000
HelicopterAS532 Cougar, Fennec, EC725 Caracal
TrainerAlpha Jet, Pilatus PC-21, SOCATA TBM, Extra EA-300
TransportLockheed C-130, Airbus A310, Airbus A330, Airbus A400M, Dassault Falcon 7X, Dassault Falcon 900, Dassault Falcon 2000, Transall C-160, Boeing C-135FR

The French Air and Space Force (AAE) (French: Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace, lit.'Army of the Air and the Space') is the air and space force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, and then made an independent military arm in 1934, becoming the French Air Force. On 10 September 2020, it assumed its current name, the French Air and Space Force.[3][4] The number of aircraft in service with the French Air and Space Force varies depending on the source, however sources from the French Ministry of Defence give a figure of 578 aircraft as of 2021.[5][6] the French Air and Space Force has 217 combat aircraft in service, with the majority being 68 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 101 Dassault Rafale.[7] As of 2021, the French Air and Space Force employs a total of 40,500 regular personnel. The reserve element of the air and space force consisted of 5,187 personnel of the Operational Reserve.[8]

The Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) is a direct subordinate of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA).


In the beginning

Establishment of the Service Aéronautique

The founding of the Service Aéronautique began in 1909, when the French War Minister approved the purchase of a Wright Biplane. The following year, another Wright biplane, a Bleriot, and two Farmans were added to the lone acquisition. On 22 October 1910, General Pierre Roques was appointed Inspector General of what was becoming referred to as the Cinquieme Arme, or Fifth Service.[9]

In March 1912, the French parliament enacted legislation to establish the air arm. It was projected to consist of three distinct branches based on aircraft missions—reconnaissance, bombing, or countering other aircraft.[9]

Inventing the fighter plane

France was one of the first states to start building aircraft. At the beginning of World War I, France had a total of 148 planes (eight from French Naval Aviation (aéronautique navale)) and 15 airships.[10] In August 1914, as France entered World War I, French airpower consisted of 24 escadrilles (squadrons) supporting ground forces, including three squadrons assigned to cavalry units. By 8 October, expansion to 65 escadrilles was being planned. By December, the plans called for 70 new squadrons.[9]

Meanwhile, even as procurement efforts scaled up, inventive airmen were trying to use various light weapons against opposing airplanes. Roland Garros invented a crude method of firing a machine gun through the propeller arc by cladding his propeller with metal wedges deflecting any errant bullets. After destroying three German airplane, Garros came down behind enemy lines on 18 April 1915. His secret weapon was thus exposed, and Anthony Fokker came up with the synchronization gear that by July 1, 1915, that turned airplanes into flying gun platforms.[11]

"Company of aviators", September 1914, by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont
French aircraft during World War I, flying over German held territory (1915)
Nieuport-Delage NiD.29 C.1 fighter used in the early post-WWI period.

Founding fighter formations

On 21 February 1916, the Verdun Offensive began. New weapons demand new tactics. Commandant Charles de Tricornet de Rose was the original French pilot, having learned to fly in March 1911. This experienced flier was given a free hand to select pilots and airplanes for a new unit tasked with keeping German observation craft from over the French lines. The ad hoc unit commandeered all available Morane-Saulniers and Nieuport 11s, as well as the 15 best pilots regardless of posting. This ad hoc unit patrolling the skies over Verdun was the first French Groupement de Chasse. The Groupement was successful despite Tricornet's death in a mishap. Under the leadership of new commander Captain Auguste de Reverand, such flying aces as Georges Guynemer, Charles Nungesser, and Albert Deullin began their careers.[12]

Encouraged by the success of their original Groupement, the French massed several escadrilles for the Battle of the Somme. The burgeoning French aircraft inventory afforded the formation of Groupement de Combat de la Somme under Capitaine Felix Brocard. The Groupement was formed on 1 July 1916 with a posting of four Nieuport escadrilles: Escadrilles N.3, N.26, 73, and N.103. Three other squadrons--Escadrilles 37, N.62, and N.65 were temporarily attached at various times.[12]

On 19 October 1916, three fixed Groupes de Combat were established, each to consist of four escadrilles. Numbered 11, 12, and 13, they were only the first three Groupements.[12]

Concentrating airpower

During March 1917, Groupe de Combat 14 and Groupe de Combat 15 were formed. Again, each new Groupe was assigned four Nieuport fighter squadrons; again, each was sent to support a different French field army.[12]

On 10 January 1918, Groupe de Combat 16 was formed from four SPAD escadrilles. In February, five more Groupe de Combats were founded from SPAD squadrons: Groupes de Combats number 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. The various Nieuport models were now being phased out as the new SPADs filled the inventories of the French.[13]

With the Groupes success, the French were encouraged to amass airpower into still larger tactical units. On 4 February 1918, Escadre de Combat No. 1 was created out of Groupe de Combat 15, Groupe de Combat 18, and Groupe de Combat 19. It was followed by Escadre de Combat No. 2, formed on the 27th from Groupe de Combat 11, Groupe de Combat 13, and Groupe de Combat 17. Each groupe would be stocked with 72 fighters.[14]

The escadres were not the end of the French accumulation of air power. On 14 May 1918, they were grouped into the Division Aerienne. As bombing aircraft were also being concentrated into larger units, the new division would also contain Escadre de Bombardement No. 12 and Escadre de Bombardement No. 13. The bombing units were both equipped with 45 Breguet 14 bombers. The last addition to the new division was five protection squadrons, operating 75 Caudron R.11 gunships to fly escort for the Breguets.[14]

On 25 June 1918, Groupe de Combat 22 was founded. Groupe de Combat 23 followed soon thereafter. A couple of night bombardment groupes were also founded.[15]

Committing the Division Aerienne

Then, on 15 July 1918, the Division was committed to the Second Battle of the Marne. From then on, whether in whole or in part, the Division Aerienne fought until war's end. By the time of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the French could commit 27 fighter squadrons to the effort, along with reconnaissance and bombing squadrons. The 1,137 airplanes dedicated to the battle were the most numerous used in a World War I battle.[16]

When the 11 November 1918 armistice came, French air power had expanded to 336 escadrilles, 74 of which were SPAD fighter squadrons. France had 3,608 planes in service.[10] Confirmed claims of 2,049 destroyed enemy airplanes included 307 that had been brought down within French lines. French airmen had also destroyed 357 observation balloons.[16] Howeverk 5,500 pilots and observers were killed out of the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting to 31% of endured losses.[17] A 1919 newspaper article reported that the French Air Force had a 61% percent war loss.[18]

Interwar period

Dewoitine D.510 monoplane fighters from the mid-1930s

Military aeronautics was established as a "special arm" by the law of 8 December 1922.[19] However, it remained under the auspices of the French Army. It was not until 2 July 1934, that the "special arm" became an independent service and was totally independent.

The initial air arm was the cradle of French military parachuting, responsible for the first formation of the Air Infantry Groups (lang-fr|Groupements de l'Infanterie de l'Air) in the 1930s, out of which the Air Parachute Commandos (French: commandos parachutistes de l'air) descended.

The French Air Force maintained a continuous presence across the French colonial empire, particularly from the 1920s to 1943.

World War II

The French Air Force played an important role in WWII, most notably during the Battle of France in 1940. The Vichy French Air Force had later a significant presence in the French Levant.

The engagement of the Free French Air Forces from 1940 to 1943, and then the engagement of the aviators of the French Liberation Army, were also important episodes in the history of the French Air Force. The sacrifices of Commandant René Mouchotte and Lieutenant Marcel Beau illustrated their devotion.


A North American T-28 Trojan, used against guerrillas during the Algerian War

After 1945, France rebuilt its aircraft industry. The French Air Force participated in several colonial wars during the Empire such as French Indochina after the Second World War. Since 1945, the French Air Force was notably engaged in Indochina (1945–1954).

The French Air Force was active in Algeria from 1952 until 1962 and Suez (1956), later Mauritania and Chad, the Persian Gulf (1990–1991), ex-Yugoslavia and more recently in Afghanistan, Mali and Iraq.

From 1964 until 1971 the French Air Force had the unique responsibility for the French nuclear arm via Dassault Mirage IV or ballistic missiles of Air Base 200 Apt-Saint-Christol on the Plateau d'Albion.

Mirage IIIC of EC 2/10 "Seine" pictured in 1980 armed with a Matra R.530

Accordingly, from 1962, the French political leadership reprioritized its military emphasis on nuclear deterrence, implementing a complete reorganisation of the Air Force, with the creation of four air regions and seven major specialised commands, among which were the Strategic Air Forces Command, COTAM, the Air Command of Aerial Defense Forces (French: Commandement Air des Forces de Défense Aérienne, CAFDA), and the Force aérienne tactique (FATac).[20] In 1964 the Second Tactical Air Command was created at Nancy to take command of air units stationed in France but not assigned to NATO. The Military Air Transport Command had previously been formed in February 1962 from the Groupement d'Unités Aériennes Spécialisées. Also created in 1964 was the Escadron des Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air (EFCA), seemingly grouping all FCA units. The Dassault Mirage IV, the principal French strategic bomber, was designed to strike Soviet positions as part of the French nuclear triad.

In 1985, the Air Force had four major flying commands, the Strategic Air Forces Command, the Tactical Air Forces Command, the Military Air Transport Command, and CAFDA (air defence).[21]

A 1986 view of a Mirage F1 of Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and another Mirage of Escadron de Chasse 3/30 Lorraine, armed with Matra R530. Both respective squadron insignias are visible on the aircraft.

CFAS had two squadrons of S2 and S-3 IRBMs at the Plateau d'Albion, six squadrons of Mirage IVAs (at Mont de Marsan, Cazaux, Orange, Istres, St Dizier, and EB 3/94 at Luxeuil - Saint-Sauveur Air Base), and three squadrons of C-135F, as well as a training/reconnaissance unit, CIFAS 328, at Bordeaux. The tactical air command included wings EC 3, EC 4, EC 7, EC 11, EC 13, and ER 33, with a total of 19 squadrons of Mirage III, Jaguars, two squadrons flying the Mirage 5F (EC 2/13 and EC 3/13, both at Colmar), and a squadron flying the Mirage F.1CR. CoTAM counted 28 squadrons, of which ten were fixed-wing transport squadrons, and the remainder helicopter and liaison squadrons, at least five of which were overseas. CAFDA numbered 14 squadrons mostly flying the Mirage F.1C. Two other commands had flying units, the Air Force Training Command, and the Air Force Transmissions Command, with four squadrons and three trials units.

Dassault Aviation led the way mainly with delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Dassault Mirage III series of fighter jets. The Mirage demonstrated its abilities in the Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War, the Falklands War, and the Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular jet fighters of its day, selling very widely.

In 1994 the Commandment of the Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air was reestablished under a different form.

Mirage 2000 in flight
Logo between 1989 and 2010

The French Air Force is expanding and replacing its aircraft inventory. The Air Force is awaiting the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, which is in development. As of November 2016, 11 A400M aircraft had been delivered to ET00.061 at Orleans-Bricy, and integration of the new Dassault Rafale multi-role jet fighter was underway, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.

In 2009 France rejoined the NATO Military Command Structure, having been absent since 1966.[22] France was a leading nation, alongside the United States, Great Britain and Italy in implementing the UN sponsored no-fly zone in Libya (NATO Operation Unified Protector), deploying 20 fighter aircraft to Benghazi in defense of rebel held positions and the civilian population.[23]

The last remaining squadron of Dassault Mirage F1s were retired in July 2014 and replaced by the Dassault Rafale.

Logo between 2010 and 2020

On 13 July 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command within the French Air Force by September 2019, and the transformation of the French Air Force into the French Air and Space Force.[24] According to Defense Minister Florence Parly, France reserves the right to arm French satellites with lasers for defensive purposes.[25]

The official renaming occurred on 24 July 2020, with the new Air and Space Force logo unveiled on 11 September 2020.[4]


Général d'armée aérienne André Lanata, former chief of staff of the Armée de l'Air

The Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) determines French Air and Space Force doctrines application and advises the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA) on the deployment, manner, and use of the Air and Space Force. They are responsible for the preparation and logistic support of the French Air and Space Force. The CEMAA is assisted by a Deputy Chief, the Major Général de l'Armée de l'Air. Finally, the CEMAA is assisted by the Inspectorate of the French Air and Space Force (IAA) and by the French Air and Space Force Health Service Inspection (ISSAA).

The Air and Space Force is organized in conformity to Chapter 4/ Title II/ Book II of the Third Part of the Defense Code (French: code de la Défense), which replaced decree n° 91-672 of 14 July 1991.

Under the authority of the Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (CEMAAE) in Paris, the Air and Space Force includes:

Air and Space Force headquarters is co-located, alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff's offices (EMA) as well with Army and Navy headquarters at the Balard. It numbers 150 aviators. The new site succeeds the former Paris Air Base (BA 117), the air staff headquarters buildings, dissolved on 25 June 2015.


The French Air and Space Force has had three commands: two grand operational commands (CDAOA and CFAS) and one organic command (CFA)).

  • Air Defense and Air Operations Command (French: Commandement de la Défense Aérienne et des Opérations Aériennes (CDAOA)), is responsible for surveillance of French airspace, as well as all aerial operations in progress. This command does not possess aircraft. Instead it exercises operational control over units of the Air Forces Command (CFA).
    • Air Defence and Air Operations Staff (French: État-major de la défense aérienne et des opérations aériennes) composed of the:
      • Air Force Operational Staff (French: État-major opérationnel Air (EMO-Air)) and the
      • Permanent readiness command center (French: Centre de permanence Air), both situated at the Balard complex (the French Air and Space Force main HQ)
      • direct reporting units:
        • Air Force Operations Brigade (French: Brigade aérienne des opérations (BAO)) (all units at BA 942 Lyon-Mont Verdun air base)
          • National Air Operations Center (French: Centre national des opérations aériennes (CNOA))
          • Core Joint Force Air Component HQ (Core JFAC HQ)
          • Operational Center for Military Surveillance of Space Objects (French: Centre opérationnel de surveillance militaire des objets spatiaux (COSMOS))
          • Analysis and Simulation Center for Air Operations Preparation (French: Centre d’analyse et de simulation pour la préparation aux opérations aériennes (CASPOA))
        • Air Force Operational Awareness and Planning Brigade (French: Brigade aérienne connaissance-anticipation (BACA))
          • Air Force Intelligence Center (French: Centre de renseignement air (CRA)) at BA 942 Lyon-Mont Verdun air base
          • National Target Designation Center (French: Centre national de ciblage (CNC)) at BA 110 Creil-Senlis air base
          • Satellite Observation Military Center 01.092 "Bourgogne" (French: Centre militaire d’observation par satellites (CMOS) 01.092 Bourgogne) at BA 110 Creil-Senlis air base
          • Land-based Electronic Warfare Squadron (French: Escadron électronique sol (EES)) at BA 123 Orléans-Bricy air base
          • Intelligence Training Squadron 20.530 (French: Escadron de formation au renseignement (EFR) 20.530) (Metz), training air and space force and naval officers, integrated in the Joint Intelligence Training Center (CFIAR) in Strasbourg[27]
      • territorial units:
        • Detection and Control Center 07.927 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) ToursCinq-Mars-la-Pile (Codename: Raki, AOR: Northwestern France)
        • Detection and Control Center 04.930 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Mont-de-Marsan (Codename: Marina, AOR: Southwestern France)
        • Detection and Control Center 05.942 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Lyon – Mont Verdun (Codename: Rambert, AOR: Southeastern France)
        • Detection and Control Center 05.901 (French: Centre de détection et de contrôle (CDC)) Drachenbronn (Codename: Riesling, AOR: Northeastern France) – disbanded in 2015, functions absorbed into the Lyon – Mont Verdun DCC
  • Strategic Air Forces Command (CFAS)), is responsible for the air force's nuclear strike units (Dassault Rafale B armed with ASMP-A missiles), as well as the tanker / strategic transport aircraft (C-135FR, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker).
  • Air Forces Command (CFA)), Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base, as an organic command, prepares units to fulfill operational missions. From September 2013, the former organic commands CFA and CSFA were merged into CFA. CFA is organized in six brigades:
    • Fighter Brigade – (French: Brigade Aérienne de l'Aviation de Chasse (BAAC)), is responsible for all air defense, air-to-ground and reconnaissance aircraft (including Dassault Rafale, Mirage 2000-5F, Mirage 2000B/C/D, Transall C-160 Gabriel). In February 2016 it was commanded by Brigadier General (Air) Philippe Lavigne.[28]
    • Projection and Support Air Force Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne d'Appui et de Projection (BAAP)), is responsible for all tactical transport and liaison aircraft (aircraft and helicopters: Transall, C-160, Hercules C-130, A310/319, Dassault Falcon 50/900, Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma, Eurocopter Fennec, Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, SOCATA TBM);
    • Airspace Control Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne de Contrôle de l'Espace (BACE)), is responsible for (Airborne early warning and control aircraft, and ground radar, ground-based air defense systems and missile defence, communication networks) airspace surveillance, constituting the Système de Commandement et de Conduite des Opérations Aérospatiales). Since 2007 the command, control and information systems network of the air and space force have been is integrated into the Joint Directorate of Infrastructure Networks and Information Systems (DIRISI)).
    • Air Force Security and Intervention Forces Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne des Forces de Sécurité et d'Intervention (BAFSI)), is responsible for units of the French Air and Space Force's commando riflemen (Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air, tasked with special operations, CSAR and target acquisition), amongst which the most elite is the Air Force Parachute Commando n° 10, C.P.A 10 (, unit of the French Special Forces. The BAFSI also includes the security units of the air bases (34 squadrons (of company strength) and detachments (of platoon strength)) and the rescue and firefighting personnel (called incident technicians and grouped into squadrons of company size);
    • Air Force Aerial Weapon Systems Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne des Systèmes d'Armes Aériens (BASAA)) provides the maintenance and repair of aerial weapons and target systems.
    • Air Force Maneuver Support Brigade (French: Brigade Aérienne d'Appui à la Manœuvre Aérienne (BAAMA)) provides the ground-based engineer and logistics personnel (including expeditionary) needed for the sustainment of air operations.
  • French Space Command (French: Commandement de l'espace (CDE))

These last two brigades belonged until 2013 to the Air Force Support Command (CSFA), which maintained the arms systems, equipment, information and communication systems (SIC) as well as infrastructure. The CSFA supported the human element, the military logistics (supply and transport), wherever, previously, forces of the French Air and Space Force operated or trained. These two brigades are now subordinate to the CFA.

The official designation of the service was changed in July 2019 from Air Army (Armée de l'Air) to Air and Space Army (Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace), when the previous joint Inter-Service Space Command (Commandement interarmées de l'espace (CIE)) under the French General Staff was transformed into the Space Command (Commandement de l'espace (CDE)) and absorbed into the Air and Space Force as its fourth command.

All air regions were disestablished on 1 January 2008. In the 1960s, there were five air regions (RA). The number was then reduced to four by a decree of 30 June 1962 with the disestablishment of the 5th Aerial Region (French North Africa). The decree of 14 July 1991 reduced the air regions to three: « RA Atlantic », « RA Mediterranean » and «  RA North-East ». On 1 July 2000 was placed into effect an organization consisting of « RA North » (RAN) and « RA South » (RAS). The territorial division was abolished by decree n°2007-601 of 26 April 2007.[29][30]

From 2008 to 2010 the French Air Force underwent the "Air 2010" streamlining process. The main targets of this project were to simplify the command structure, to regroup all military and civil air force functions and to rationalise and optimise all air force units. Five major commands, were formed, instead of the former 13, and several commands and units were disbanded.[31]

Support services

The Directorate of Human Resources of the Air and Space Force (DRH-AAE) recruits, trains, manages, administers, and converts personnel of the Air and Space Force. Since January 2008, the DRH-AAE groups the former Air Force directorate of military personnel (DPMMA) and some tasks of the former Air Force Training Command. The directorate is responsible for Air and Space Force recruitment via the recruiting bureau.

French joint defence service organisations, supporting the air and space force, include:[26]

  • The Integrated Structure of Maintaining Operational Conditioning of Aeronautical Defense Materials (French: Structure Intégrée de Maintien en Condition Opérationnelle des Matériels Aéronautiques de la Défense) (SIMMAD).
  • The Aeronautical Industrial Service (French: Service Industriel de l'Aéronautique) (SIAE).
  • The " Air Commissariat " (French: " Commissariat de l'Air ") between 1947 and 2007, then " Financial and General Administration Service " (French: " Service de l'Administration Générale et des Finances " (SAGF)) from 2008 until 2009, and finally the " Commissariat Service of the Armed Forces " (SCA) (French: Service du Commissariat des Armées) since 2010, have successively been designated as administrative services of the French Air and Space Force. The Commissioners as well as Civilians of this service carry out : operations support, individual legal rights, judicial, internal control accountability, financial and purchase executions, and support and protection of the combatant.[32]


Commanded by a Lieutenant-colonel or Colonel, the Escadre is a formation that assembles various units and personnel dedicated to the same mission. The designation of " Escadre " was replaced with that of regiment in 1932 and was designated until 1994, a unit grouping :

  • units (escadrons or groups) generally equipped with the same type of aircraft or at least assuring the same type of mission
  • units of maintenance and support.

Escadres (wings) were dissolved from 1993 as part of the Armées 2000 reorganisation, were reestablished in 2014.[33] The problems caused by having the aircraft maintenance units not responsible to the flying squadrons they supported eventually forced the change.

Four Escadres were reformed in the first phase:[33]

In the second phase, the French Air Force announced in August 2015 the creation of six additional wings:[33]

Also established was the Escadre Aérienne de Commandement et de Conduite Projetable (French: Escadre Aérienne de Commandement et de Conduite Projetable) at Évreux-Fauville Air Base on 27 August 2015.

The French Air and Space Force announced in August 2015 that unit numbering, moves of affected aircraft, and the transfer of historic material (flags, traditions and names) would be completed in 2016.[33]

Another air force wing was added on September 5, 2019:

Squadrons and flights

Commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, the Escadron is the basic operational unit. This term replaced that of Group as of 1949 with the aim to standardize usage with the allies of NATO who were using the term 'squadron'. However, the term Group did not entirely disappear: the term was retained for the Aerial Group 56 Mix Vaucluse, specialized in Special Operations or Group – Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 02.091 Bretagne (French: Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 02.091 Bretagne) which is still carrying the same designation since 2004.[citation needed]

A fighter squadron (escadron) can number some twenty machines, spread in general in three Escadrilles. A Transport Escadron (French: Escadron de Transport) can theoretically count a dozen Transall C-160, however, numbers are usually much less for heavier aircraft (three Airbus A310-300 and two Airbus A340-200 for the Transport Escadron 3/60 Estérel (French: Escadron de Transport 3/60 Estérel)).[citation needed]

The squadrons have retained the designations of the former Escadres disbanded during the 1990s. For instance: Transport Escadron 1/64 Béarn (French: escadron de transport 1/64 Béarn) (more specifically Transport Escadron 01.064 Béarn), which belonged to the 64th Transport Escadre (French: 64e Escadre de Transport) during the dissolution of the later (recreated in August 2015). Not all escadrons (Squadrons) are necessarily attached to an Escadre.[citation needed]

The Escadrille (flight) has both an administrative and operational function, even of the essential operational control is done at the level of the Esacdron. A pilot is assigned to the Escadrille, however the equipment and material devices, on the other hand, are assigned to the Escadron. Since the putting into effect of the ESTA (Aeronautic Technical Support Escadrons), material devices and the mechanics are assigned directly to the base then put at disposition of the based Escadrons.[citation needed]

The Escadrilles adopted the traditions of the prestigious units out of which most (SPA and SAL),[note 1] are those traditions of the First World War.[citation needed]

Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air

The Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air comprise:[34]

  • Protection squadrons (French: Escadrons de protection) (EP)
  • Air Parachute Commando 10 (French: Commando parachutiste de l'air) (CPA 10)
  • Air Parachute Commando 20 (CPA 20)
  • Air Parachute Commando 30 (CPA 30)

Protection Squadrons protect airbases inside and outside the national territory, and in exterior operations as well.

The CPAs carry out common missions, as well as specialized tasks; including intervention and reinforcement of protection at the profit of sensible points " air " inside and outside the national territory.

Air bases

Air bases in Metropolitan France

Flying activity in France is carried out by a network of bases, platforms and French air and space defence radar systems. It is supported by bases, which are supervised and maintained by staff, centres of operations, warehouses, workshops, and schools. Both in France and abroad, bases have similar infrastructure to provide standardised support.

The French Air and Space Force has, as of 1 August 2014:

  • Within the metropolitan territory of France, 27 airbases, out of the which 18 aeronautical platform with perceived runways and 5 Bases non-platform, two schools, 3 air detachments and " one attached air element " (EAR).
  • Beyond the metropole/Europe, 7 Aerial Bases or permanent detachments in overseas or country.
A French Air and Space Force Dassault Rafale B at RIAT in 2009
Crotale missile-launchers of the Air Defense Ground-to-Air Squadron of the French Air and Space Force

Some French airbases house radar units (e.g. Lyon, Mont-Verdun, Drachenbronn, Cinq-Mars-la-Pile, Nice, Mont-Agel) to carry out air defence radar surveillance and air traffic control. Others house material warehouses or command posts. Temporary and semi-permanent foreign deployments include transport aircraft at Dushanbe (Tajikistan, Operation Héraclès), and fighter aircraft in N'Djamena (Tchad, Opération Épervier), for instance.

As swift as the French Air and Space Force operates, the closure of aerial bases is more constant and immediate, having known a strong acceleration since the 1950s. 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.

On average, a base, made up of about 1500 personnel (nearly 3500 people including family), provides a yearly economic boost to its area of about 60 million euros. Consequently, determining the sites for air bases constitutes a major part of regional planning.[35]


More than ten bases have been closed since 2009. Doullens Air Base (BA 922) was a former command and reporting centre; Toulouse - Francazal Air Base (BA 101), was closed on 1 September 2009; Colmar-Meyenheim Air Base (BA 132) was closed on 16 June 2010; Metz-Frescaty Air Base (BA 128) was closed on 30 June 2011; Brétigny-sur-Orge Air Base (BA 217), closed 26 June 2012; Cambrai - Épinoy Air Base (BA 103), was closed on 28 June 2012; Reims – Champagne Air Base (June 2012); Drachenbronn Air Base (BA 901) closed on 17 July 2015; Dijon Air Base (BA 102), was vacated on 30 June 2016;[37] Creil Air Base (BA 110) vacated on 31 August 2016; and Taverny Air Base (DA 921), the former Strategic Air Forces Command headquarters.

Aircraft inventory

Aircraft of the French Air and Space Force include:[38]

Type Origin Class Role Introduced In service Total Notes
Combat Aircraft
Mirage 2000C/5F France Jet Fighter-bomber 1983 40
Mirage 2000D France Jet Attack 1995 68 68 55 pieces 2000D variant will be modernized MLU by 2025
Rafale B/C/N France Jet Multirole 2006 101 42 additional Rafale M in naval service.[7][39]
Rafale N replaced the Mirage 2000N in nuclear strike roles
Boeing E-3F Sentry USA Jet AEW&C 1990 4 4
Beechcraft Super King Air 350 USA Propeller ISR 2018 2 2 [40]
Transport and Tanker
Transall C-160 France/Germany Propeller Transport/ELINT 1968 11/2 8
Airbus A400M Atlas Europe Propeller Transport 2014 18[41] 18 32 more on order
CASA CN235M-200/300 Spain Propeller Transport 1983 27 27
DHC-6 Twin Otter Canada Propeller Transport 1976 5 5
Lockheed C-130 Hercules USA Propeller Transport 1987 14 14 7 C-130H, 7 C-130H-30
Airbus A330 MRTT Europe Jet Tanker & Transport 2018 5 5 5 delivered on an order of 15. The 6th will be delivered in December 2021.The 7th, 8th and 9th will be delivered in July, November and December 2022.The 10th, 11th, 12th will be delivered in July, September and December 2023.The final target of 15 aircraft will be reached between 2025 and 2030 by converting the 3 A330-200s[42][43]
Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules USA Propeller Tanker & Transport 2018–2019 2/2 4 2 KC-130J and 2 C-130J to support Special Forces Operations[44]
Boeing C-135FR USA Jet Tanker 1964 11 11
VIP Transport
Socata TBM 700 France Propeller Transport 1990 15 15
Dassault Falcon 7X France Jet Transport 2009 2 2
Dassault Falcon 900 France Jet Transport 1991 2 2
Dassault Falcon 2000 France Jet Transport 2011 2 2
Airbus A330-243 Europe Jet Transport 2020 3 3 3 delivered to be converted to MRTT standart; 1 for presidential transport
Airbus A310-304 Europe Jet Transport 1993 2 2
Aérospatiale SA330 Puma France Rotorcraft Transport 1968 18 18 To be replace by 26 H225M Caracal
Eurocopter AS555 Fennec Europe Rotorcraft Trainer 1990 40 40
Eurocopter EC725 Caracal Europe Rotorcraft CSAR/SOF 2006 10 10 8 on order. More 8 planned in transfer from French Army[45]
Trainer aircraft
Diamond HK36 Super Dimona Austria Propeller Trainer 2010 5 5
Embraer EMB 121 Xingu Brazil Propeller Trainer 1982 22 22
Extra EA-300 Germany Propeller Utility 2005 3 3
Mirage 2000B-S5 France Jet Conversion trainer 1993 7 7 based at Orange-Caritat: EC 2/5 Ile-de-France; unarmed aircraft which will be kept until the withdrawal of the Mirage 2000 D to ensure the conversion to Mirage 2000.
Pilatus PC-21 Switzerland Propeller Trainer 2018 17 17 [46][47]
Alpha Jet France/Germany Jet Trainer 1978 80 80 Includes presentation team
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper USA UAV ISR/Attack 2013 12 12 One of the six original crashed in Niger.[48] The drone lost in the Sahel in November 2018 is replaced by a Reaper rented, for two years, to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (for the annual sum of $1)[49]

Photo gallery with current main aircraft


Name Origin Type Number Photo Notes
SAMP/T  France
Surface-to-air missile 10 Salon du Bourget 20090619 108.jpg Systems "Mamba". Aster 30 has been successfully incorporated into a land based SAM system, fulfilling the "Ground-based area defence" mission requirement.
Crotale NG  France Surface-to-air missile system 12 Crotale NG P1220851.jpg Short-range, mobile all-weather weapon system that holds eight VT-1 missiles.


Side cap of the French Air and Space Force personnel

Since the end of the Algerian War, the French Air and Space Force has comprised about 17 to 19% of the French Armed Forces.[50] In 1990, at the end of the Cold War, numbers reached 56,400 military personnel under contract, out of which 36,300 were part of conscription and 5,400 civilians.[51]

In 2008, forecasts for personnel of the French Air Force were expected to number 50,000 out of which 44,000 aviators on the horizon in 2014.

In 2010, the number personnel of the French Air Force was reduced to 51,100 men and women (20%) out of which: 13% officers; 55% sous-officier; 29% air military technicians (MTA); 3% volunteers of national service and aspirant volunteers; 6,500 civilians (14%). They form several functions:

Non-flying personnel

Non-navigating personnel of the French Air and Space Force include and are not limited to : Systems Aerial Mechanics (French: mécanicien système aéronautique), Aerial Controllers (French: contrôleur aérien), Meteorologists (French: météorologue), Administrative Personnel, Air Parachute Commandos (French: Commandos parachutistes de l'air), in Informatics, in Infrastructures, in Intelligence, Commissioner of the Armies (French: Commissaire) (Administrator Task).

Flying personnel

Pilots, Mechanical Navigating Officer (French: Mécanicien Navigant), Navigating Arms Systems Officer (French: Navigateur Officier Système d'Armes) (NOSA), Combat Air Medic (French: Convoyeur de l'Air) (CVA).

Training of personnel

Students of the École de l'air (Air School) during the military parade of July 14th in 2007 on the Champs-Élysées

Officers, within their recruitment and future specialty, are trained at:

  • École de l'air (French: École de l'air) (Air School) de Provence;
  • École Militaire de l'Air (French: École militaire de l'air) (Military Air School);
  • École des commissaires des armées (French: École des commissaires des armées) (Commissioners Armies School);
  • École de pilotage de l'Armée de l'air (French: École de pilotage de l'Armée de l'air) (Piloting School of the French Air and Space Force);
  • École de l'aviation de transport (French: École de l'aviation de transport) (Aviation Transport School);
  • École de l'aviation de chasse (French: École de l'aviation de chasse) (Aviation Hunter Fighter Pilot School);
  • École de transition opérationnelle (French: École de transition opérationnelle) (Operational Transition School).

Officers of the French Air and Space Force are spread in three corps:

  • Air Officer (French: Officiers de l'air);
  • Officer Mechanics (French: Officiers Mécaniciens);
  • Aerial Base Officer (French: officiers des bases de l'air), amongst which, officers of the Air Parachute Commandos (French: Commandos parachutistes de l'air) are featured.

Non-commissioned officers (Sous-Officiers) are trained at:

  • École de formation des sous-officiers de l'Armée de l'air (French: École de formation des sous-officiers de l'Armée de l'air) (EFSOAA) de Rochefort;
  • École interarmées (French: École interarmées) (Inter-arm School) for administrative specialists;
  • Escadron de formation des commandos de l'air (French: Escadron de formation des commandos de l'air) (EFCA) at Orange-Caritat Air Base (BA 115) for the personnel concerned;

Military Air Technicians (French: militaires techniciens de l’air) having been trained until 1 July 2015 at the Center of Elementary Military Formation (French: " Centre de formation militaire élémentaire ") of the Technical Instruction School of the French Air and Space Force (French: École d'enseignement technique de l'Armée de l'air) of Saintes. Since 1 July 2015, training has taken place at Orange-Caritat Air Base, within the " Operational Combatant Preparation Center of the Air Force " (French: Centre de préparation opérationnelle du combattant de l'Armée de l'air).

Air traffic controllers are trained at the Center of Instruction Control and Air Defense (French: Centre d'Instruction du Contrôle et de la Défense Aérienne).


NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
France French Air and Space Force[52]
French Air Force-général d'armée aérienne.svg French Air Force-général de corps aérien.svg French Air Force-général de division aérienne.svg French Air Force-général de brigade aérienne.svg French Air Force-colonel.svg French Air Force-lieutenant-colonel.svg French Air Force-commandant.svg French Air Force-capitaine.svg French Air Force-lieutenant.svg French Air Force-sous-lieutenant.svg French Air Force-aspirant.svgFrench Air Force-aspirant élève.svg French Air Force-élève officier.svgFrench Air Force-aspirant EOPN.svg
Général d´armée aérienne Général de corps aérien Général de division aérienne Général de brigade aérienne Colonel Lieutenant-colonel Commandant Capitaine Lieutenant Sous-lieutenant Aspirant Élève-officier
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
France French Air and Space Force[52]
French Air Force-major.svg French Air Force-adjudant-chef.svg French Air Force-adjudant.svg French Air Force-sergeant-chef.svg French Air Force-sergeant.svg French Air Force-caporal-chef.svg French Air Force-caporal.svg French Air Force-aviateur de première classe.svg French Air Force-aviateur.svg
Major Adjudant-chef Adjudant Sergent-chef Sergent Caporal-chef Caporal Aviateur 1e classe Aviateur 2e classe

See also


  1. ^ Designations of Escadrilles composed of the identifying number of material devices (for instance SPA for escadrille equipped with SPAD, N for Nieuport, SAL for Salmson, etc.) and an order number.


  1. ^ (in French)
  2. ^ a b "Defence Key Figures". (2021 ed.). Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2021. Check date values in: |access-date= (help) (download PDF file or see HTML version [1])
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "France: Goodbye Air Force, hello Air and Space Force". 12 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Annuaire statistique de la défense 2013–2014" 10 July 2014 (in French)
  6. ^ "Annuaire statistiques de la défense 2012–2013" Archived 1 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine 4 June 2013 (in French)
  7. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 January 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Key defence figures 2014" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 December 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, p. 84
  10. ^ a b History of light aviation of the French Army 1794–2008, Lavauzelle, Collection of History, Memory and Patrimony, Général André Martini, 2005, Paris, pages 36,42, ISBN 2-7025-1277-1
  11. ^ Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, pp. 84-85
  12. ^ a b c d Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, p. 85
  13. ^ Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, pp. 85-86
  14. ^ a b Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, p. 86
  15. ^ Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, pp. 86-87
  16. ^ a b Over the Front: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918, p. 87
  17. ^ Les hydravions Georges Lévy Archived 5 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Hydroplanes Georges Lévy, Gérard Hartmann, 2011, The Schneider cup and veteran hydroplanes.
  18. ^ "French Airmen Suffered Most". The Washington Herald. Library of Congress. 21 December 1919. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  19. ^ Journale Officiel de la République Française of 9 December 1922 Archived 31 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Law on the creation of the Aeronautics Arm on 8 December 1922 published in JO on 9 December 1922, BNF-Gallica,
  20. ^ Young(ed),"Command in NATO after the Cold War", 96.
  21. ^ Isby, David; Kamps, Charles (1985). Armies of NATO's Central Front. London: Jane's Publishing Company. pp. 168–170. ISBN 978-0-7106-0341-8.
  22. ^ "Sarkozy confirmed that France will soon return to NATO's integrated command" 17 June 2008
  23. ^ "Report Hubert Védrine" 12 November 2012 (in English)
  24. ^ French President Emmanuel Macron announces creation of French space force
  25. ^ 'May the force be with vous’: France unveils space weapons plan
  26. ^ a b Légifrance, base CDEF(R), numéro R3224-8, Code de la Défense, Art. R.3224-8
  27. ^ "CFIAR". Archived from the original on 3 December 2018.
  28. ^ "Chammal : visite du commandant de la brigade aérienne de l'aviation de chasse". Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  29. ^ Décret n° 2007-601 du 26 avril 2007, modifiant la première partie du code de la Défense (partie réglementaire), Archived 1 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Légifrance, Jacques Chirac, 26 April 2007
  30. ^ Décret du 26 avril 2007 Archived 1 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "The Military Balance 2013". Archived 1 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, 14 March 2013.
  32. ^ [2] Archived 8 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Métiers et expertise du SCA,, 11 February 2015.
  33. ^ a b c d Nouvelles escadres aériennes : une cohérence opérationnelle accrue, des valeurs renforcées Archived 26 August 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Site de l'Armée de l'air accessed 16 November 2015.
  34. ^ [3] Archived 28 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Les fusiliers commandos, 10 February 2015, 2 August 2010,; Officier commando de l'air Archived 5 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "France faced with developments in the international and strategic context" Archived 3 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine 3 April 2012 (in English)
  36. ^ "Le ministère commande la rénovation à mi-vie des Mirage 2000 D". Archived from the original on 24 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  37. ^ Scramble Archived 19 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  38. ^ "Chiffres cles de la Defense 2018". Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  39. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ (in French) SUPER KING AIR 350 ALSR, DES SHADOW R MK-1 À LA FRANÇAISE ? Archived 2 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ Riool, Peter W. "Airbus A400M Full Production List". Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  42. ^ "France Confirms Order for Eight MRTT Tankers". 16 December 2015. Archived from the original on 21 August 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  43. ^ "France orders three more Airbus A330 MRTT tankers". 14 December 2018. Archived from the original on 14 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  44. ^ "France –C-130J Aircraft – The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency". Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  45. ^
  46. ^ "France speeds PC-21 deliveries". 20 September 2018. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  47. ^ "UNVEILED THE FIRST PILATUS PC-21 FOR FRENCH AIR FORCE". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  48. ^ First French MQ-9 Reaper Crash on Record
  49. ^ "France – MQ-9 Reapers – The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  50. ^ Michel L. Martin, Le déclin de l'armée de masse en France. Note sur quelques paramètres organisationnels, Revue française de sociologie, volume 22, number 22-1, year 1981, pages 87–115 0035-2969 1981 num 22 1 3390
  51. ^ Bilan social 90, Editor : Direction de la fonction militaire et du personnel civil, 1990, total pages 62, passage 6 to 8 format=PDF Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ a b "Les grades" (PDF). (in French). Ministry of Armed Forces (France). Retrieved 4 June 2021.

Further reading

  • Olivier, Jean-Marc, (ed.), Histoire de l'armée de l'air et des forces aériennes françaises du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours" [History of the Air Force and French aerial forces since the 18th century to the present], Toulouse, Privat, 2014, 552 p.
  • Pither, Tony (1998). The Boeing 707 720 and C-135. England: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85130-236-2.
  • Diego Ruiz Palmer, "France's Military Command Structures in the 1990s," in Thomas-Durell Young, Command in NATO After the Cold War: Alliance, National and Multinational Considerations, U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, June 1997

External links

  • (in French) Official website
  • (in English) Official website
  • (in French) List of air bases, appendix of the budget bill for 2006, French Senate