The French air force shows it’s air power in an airshow over paris. The French Air Force (French: Armée de l’air [aʀme də lɛʀ], “army of the air”) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1934. The number of aircraft in service with the French Air Force varies depending on source, however sources from the French Ministry of Defence give a figure of 658 aircraft in 2014. The French Air Force has 219 combat aircraft in service, with the majority being 124 Dassault Mirage 2000 and 95 Dassault Rafale. As of early 2014, the French Air Force employs a total of 45,489 regular personnel. The reserve element of the air force consisted of 4,356 personnel of the Operational Reserve.
The Minister of Defence is responsible for execution of 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 of the French Air Force (CEMAA) determines the air force doctrines and advises the CEMA how to deploy French air assets. He is responsible for the preparation and logistic support of the air force.
Main articles: History of the Armée de l’Air (1909–1942), Free French Air Force, Vichy French Air Force and History of the Armée de l’Air (colonial presence 1939–1962)
The French took active interest in developing the air force from 1909 and had the first World War I fighter pilots. During the interwar years, however, particularly in the 1930s, the quality fell after they compared with the Luftwaffe, which crushed the French during the Battle of France.
In the post–World War II era, the French made a successful effort to develop a domestic aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way mainly with delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Mirage series of jet fighters. 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, with a high quantity of sales. The French Air Force participated in several protracted colonial wars in Africa and Indochina after the Second World War, and continues to employ its air power in Africa.
From January 1964, the French political leadership, now prioritising nuclear deterrence, put in train a complete reorganisation of the Air Force, with the creation of four air régions and seven major specialised commands, among which was the Strategic Air Forces Command (Commandement des forces aérienne stratégiques) (CoFAS). The Military Air Transport Command had previously been formed in February 1962 from the Groupement d’Unités Aériennes Spécialisées. The Dassault Mirage IV, the principal French strategic bomber, was designed to strike Soviet positions as part of the French nuclear triad. Also created in 1964 was the Escadron des Fusiliers Commandos de l’Air (EFCA), seemingly grouping all FCA units.
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 the Commandement Air des Forces de Défense Aérienne (Air Command of Air Defence Forces). CFAS had two squadrons of 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), and three squadrons of KC-135Fs, 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 Schools Command (CEAA), and the Air Force Transmissions Command, with four squadrons and three trials units.
In 1994 the Commandement des Fusiliers Commandos de l’Air was established.
Currently, the French Air Force is expanding and replacing aircraft inventory. The French are awaiting the A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in developmental stages, and the integration of the new Dassault Rafale multi-role jet fighter, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.
After an absence lasting several decades, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that France will rejoin the NATO integrated command. France has also been a lead nation, alongside the United States, Great Britain and Italy in implementing the UN sponsored no-fly zone in Libya (NATO ‘Odyessy Dawn’),