Commandement des Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (CFAS)
Strategic Air Command
The Air Force operates just over 1,000 aircraft of various types (combat, transport, liaison, training and helicopters), from the Mirage 2000 to the Epsilon. The Air Force is responsible for the operation of one of the two components of the deterrent force: the airborne one, based on air-to-ground missiles.
The Strategic Air Command (CFAS = Commandement des Forces Aériennes Stratégiques) is the airborne component of nuclear deterrence.
The CFAS was at one point comprised of three squadrons of Mirage 2000 N carrying the medium range air-to-ground missile (ASMP) and one squadron of C135 FR in-flight refuelling aircraft. This arrangement gave the national deterrence the required flexibility and range in order to keep French deterrence pertinent and credible in today's world.
The Strategic Air Command has a dedicated Mirage IV P unit for strategic reconnaissance, exploiting to the full the versatile nature of this aircraft. In order to facilitate the operational control of the resources placed at its disposal to exercise the nuclear option, the Strategic Air Command has two operations centres as well as its own specific transmission networks, notably the C-160 Transall Astarté, a specialized air transmission unit for relaying orders from the highest authorities to the SNLE (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile Submarines) on patrol. Its versatility also allows the strategic air component to exercise a conventional capability so long as the permanent nuclear deterrence requirements are met.
The 50 Mirage IV-A ordered in March 1959 were all finally delivered between 1964 and 1966. They were dispersed on nine air bases, organized into three mixed squadrons of bombardment, composed each of three squadrons of bombardment [l'Escadron de bombardement] and a squadron for in-flight refueling [l'Escadron de ravitaillement en vol] under the Strategic Air Command. In 1976 the first reorganization of the FAS led to the removal of three squadrons of bombardment and to the creation of the 93ème Squadron of in-flight refueling. Since 1986 the component included the 91ème Escadre of bombardment with two squadrons, the Center of Instruction of the Strategic Air Forces and the 93ème Escadre of in-flight refueling with three squadrons. In June 1996, the Mirage IVP were retired from nuclear duties.
A two-seater light bomber, the Vautour [Vulture] ensured the transition between Douglas B-26 Invader dating from the Second World war and Dassault Mirage IV A. Forty Vautour aircraft were delivered to the 92ème Escadre which used them between 1958 to 1979. The last nine aircraft were modified to also carry out reconnaissance missions. On 22 September 1978 the 92ème Squadron of bombardment was disolved.
Since the summer of 1996, only the Mirage 2000 N aircraft, equipped with the ASMP missile (ground-to-air medium range) have been dedicated to the nuclear deterrence role. Their secondary role is conventional air attack. The Mirage IV P aircraft are dedicated to the strategic reconnaissance role. The piloted component of the strategic air assets includes the in-flight refuelling capability of the C 135 FR aircraft powered by four CFM 56 engines; these aircraft also provide refuelling for all combat aircraft within the Air Force.
An "air base" consists both of the units of the Air Force as well as the community, equipped with administration, supporting these units. The units can concern operational commands, organic commands or the police headquarters. Independently of the air bases, there exists in the Air Force of the insulated elements, detachment air (DA) or significant insulated not attached (PSIR), whose importance does not justify the creation of an air base.
Each squadron is composed of two to three escadrilles, with a cell " command operations ", of a group of maintenance and sometimes of a specific unit (flight simulation for example). The squadrons or flying units consist of mechanics who prepare the planes with the flight and check them with each landing. The technical squadron of specialized support (ESTS) deals with basic repairs by a periodic maintenance work. The complexity of the apparatus requires specialized cells: hydraulics, cell, radar, armament, electricity, ejector seat, and engine.
Following the announcement by the French President in a March 2008 speech in Cherbourg, the components of the FAS were reorganized, resulting, among other things in the inactivation of the Lafayette and Dauphiné squadrons flying the Mirage 2000N and based at Luxeuil.
As another consequence, only two squadrons were left assigned to the FAS with a nuclear role: 1) the 1/91 Gascogne operating from BA 113 in Saint-Dizier (Haute-Marne) and equipped with the Rafale F3 and the ASMPA missile; and 2) the 3/4 Limousin based at Istres and flying the Mirage 2000N and equipped with the ASMPA since october 2009. As of late 2010, the 3/4 Limousin was scheduled to be redesignated as Lafayette in summer of 2011.
Post-2011 Order of Battle
Pre-2011 Order of Battle
- EB 1/91 Gascogne
- EB 2/91 Bretagne
- EB 3/91 Beauvaisis
- EV 4/91
- EB 1/93
- EB 2/93 Cevennes
- EB 3/93 Sambre
- EV 4/93
- EB 1/94 Bourbonnais
- EB 2/94 Marne
- EB 3/94 Arbois
- EV 4/94
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