French Air Force / Armée de l'Air - Modernisation
Modernisation efforts focus on strategic and tactical mobility capability, which will extend to a range of 7,000 to 8,000 km, on ground force support capability (precision, protection, permanence over zone and all-weather capability) and on deep-strike capability. The capability of tactical and extended-life drones will also be strengthened, both for surveillance and intelligence purposes and to provide support to ground forces by armed drones.
Air Force and Navy combat aircraft would be combined under the operational command of the Chief of the Defence Staff into a single fighters fleet which would ultimately consist exclusively of Rafale and modernised Mirage 2000 aircraft, under Air Force management. The Air Force will ensure, in liaison with the Navy, that the maximum possible synergies are achieved in terms of the organisation, support and readiness of these forces. In addition, the Air Force will be tasked by the Joint Space Command with the surveillance of outer space, and will be given extended powers to implement space-based capabilities.
To fulfil all these missions, the Air Force will field the following resources:
- 300 modern combat aircraft (Rafale and modernised Mirage 2000-D), including Navy fighter aircraft;
- 4 AWACS systems;
- A fleet of refuelling tanker and transports aircraft comprising some 14 MRTT-type aircraft and some 70 transport aircraft.
On September 26, 2008 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to France of upgrades to E-3F AWACS Aircraft with Block 40/45 Mission Computing as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $400 million. The Government of France has requested a possible sale to upgrade four E-3F Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) Aircraft with Block 40/45 Mission Computing, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Interface, and Mode 5/S Identification Friend or Foe (IFF). In addition, this proposed sale will include related spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, integration, personnel training and equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services, and other related elements of program support. France previously purchased four sets of AWACS mission equipment and needs this upgrade to maintain interoperability and interchangeability with U.S. and other NATO coalition partners.
On 18 October 2011 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of France for the upgrade of four E-2C HAWKEYE Aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $180 million. The Government of France has requested a possible sale of the upgrade of four E-2C HAWKEYE Aircraft with weapon system sensor upgrades with Mode 5/S Identification Friend or Foe (IFF). Included are 5 APX-122 IFF Mode 5/S Interrogator Systems, 5 APX-123 IFF Mode 5/S Transponder Systems, and 5 ALQ-217 Electronic Support Measure Systems. In addition, this proposed sale will include related spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, weapon system support, development, publications and technical documentation, integration and testing, personnel training and equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
According to the 2013 White Paper, the air force will continue to ensure permanent deployment of the air component of the mission of deterrence and protection of national air space and its approaches. They will continue to be modernised to have available a fleet of top-class, multi-purpose aircraft giving them the capability for first entry, situation assessment, interoperability, deep-penetration strikes, strategic and tactical transport and supporting ground manuvers as required in a major conflict. They will also continue to field a sufficient number of aircraft, thanks to the extension of the service life of older but high-level specialised aircraft, notably for missions of territorial protection and crisis management. Operational preparation will be differentiated, with particular emphasis on fielding an initial array of very rapid-reaction forces over the whole spectrum of operations. This approachwill be supported upstream by upgrading fighter pilot training.
Relying on a permanent command and operational center, interoperable with Allies, the air force will include
- 225 fighter aircraft (air force and naval aviation),
- 50 tactical transport aircraft,
- 7 detection and surveillance aircraft,
- 12 multi-role refuelling aircraft,
- 12 theatre surveillance drones, several light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft
- 8 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems.
Analysis of requirements highlights France’s need to field a permanent capability in several types of equipment. The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drones equipped with IMINT and ELINT sensors can detect, locate and track potential targets. Tactical drones provide direct intelligence support for forces present in crisis regions. Light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and new-generation reconnaissance pods are also indispensable, with recent operations confirming the importance of these airborne sensors. On June 27, 2013 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to France of 16 MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. The Government of France has requested a possible sale of:
- 16 MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft
- 8 Mobile Ground Control Stations (GCS)
- 48 Honeywell TPE331-10T Turboprop Engines (16 installed and 32 spares)
- 24 Satellite Earth Terminal Substations
- 40 Ku Band Link-Airborne Communication Systems
- 40 General Atomics Lynx (exportable) Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) Systems
- 40 AN/DAS-1 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (MTS)-B
- 40 Ground Data Terminals
- 40 ARC-210 Radio Systems
- 40 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems
- 48 AN/APX-119 and KIV-119 Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) Systems
Also provided are spare and repair parts, communication, test, and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, airworthiness and maintenance support, site surveys and bed down planning, personnel training and training equipment, operational flight test, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $1.5 billion.
France is one of the major political and economic powers in Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and an ally of the United States in the pursuit of peace and stability. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist France to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This potential sale will enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability of the French military in support of national, NATO, United Nation-mandated, and other coalition operations. Commonality of ISR capabilities will greatly increase interoperability between the U.S and French military and peacekeeping forces.
France requested these capabilities to provide for the defense of its deployed troops, regional security, and interoperability with the U.S. The proposed sale will improve France’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing improved ISR coverage that promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, anticipates enemy intent, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support. France, which already has remotely piloted aircraft in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing this additional capability.
On 10 November 2015 the US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to France for C-130J aircraft and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $650 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale. The Government of France requested a possible sale of:
Major Defense Equipment (MDE):
- Two (2) C-130J aircraft with Rolls Royce AE-2100D Turboprop Engines
- Two (2) KC-130J aircraft with Rolls Royce AE-2100D Turboprop Engines
- Four (4) Rolls Royce AE-2100D Turboprop Engines (spares)
Non-Major Defense Equipment (Non-MDE):
- Six (6) AN/ALE 47 Electronic Countermeasure Dispensers (1 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Six (6) AN/AAR-47A(V)2 Missile Warning Systems (1 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Six (6) AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers (1 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Ten (10) Embedded Global Positioning/Inertial Navigation Systems (2 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Ten (10) AN/ARC-210 Radios (2 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Ten (10) AN/ARC-164 UHF/VF Radios (2 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Two (2) HF Voice Radios
- Ten (10) KY-100 Secure Voice Terminals (2 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
- Ten (10) KYV-5 Secure Voice Equipment Units (2 per aircraft, plus 2 spares)
Also provided are support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated MDE value is $355 million. The total overall estimated value is $650 million.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the capability of a NATO ally. It is vital to U.S. national interests to assist the French Air Force to increase its airlift, air refueling, and air drop capabilities. These aircraft will provide these capabilities and will be used to support national, NATO, United Nations, and other coalition operations. Providing these aircraft to the French Air Force will greatly increase interoperability between the U.S. Air Force and the French Air Force, as well as other NATO allies.
The C-130Js will provide critical transport, airdrop, and resupply to thousands of French troops in support of current and future operations. The KC-130Js will provide crucial air refueling capability to France's fighter aircraft, light transport aircraft, and helicopters. France will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Marietta, Georgia, on Dec. 1, 2016 was awarded a $133,434,778 modification (P00658) to previously awarded contract FA8625-11-C-6597 for aircraft. Contractor will provide two U.S. government-configured C-130J-30 aircraft. Work will be performed at Marietta, Georgia, and is expected to be completed by Aug. 30, 2020. This modification involves unclassified foreign military sales (FMS) to France. FMS France funds in the amount of $133,434,778 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.
On 13 December 2018 Airbus Defence and Space received a firm order from the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) for a further three A330 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. The aircraft, known as Phénix in French service, constituted the third and final tranche of the multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs signed by the French Ministry of Defence in 2014. The first of the fleet was formally handed over in October and the remainder will be delivered by the end of 2023 under an accelerated timescale requested by France.
In French service the A330 MRTT will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refuelling Boom System and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. The aircraft can be configured in a variety of layouts carrying up to 272 passengers as well as medevac arrangements including the French MORPHEE intensive care module carrying up to ten patients as well as 88 passengers. The combat-proven A330 MRTT had been ordered by 12 nations which had now placed firm orders for 60 aircraft, of which 34 had been delivered.
French forces had up to now two possibilities : either resorting to the Interim Solution for Strategic Air Transport (SALIS) within the framework of NATO , or go through a procedure known as "order forms", based on contracts notified to private charterers. The French SME ICS (International Chartering Systems) thus provided, between 2011 and 2017, a series of airlifts for the French army, from the disengagement from Afghanistan to the first deployments of equipment in the Sahel.
This private charter, whose services gave complete satisfaction for unbeatable prices, used its connections in Russia and Ukraine to allow the French army access to Antonov 124 (An-124) type planes and to other devices (IL76, B747, An225, B777, B767, B737 or An12). Thanks to this contract, the French forces were even able to use the An-124 of the 224 Flight Unit of the Russian army., as well as aircraft from the firms Aviacon Zitotrans (Russian), Transaviaexport (Belarusian) and Ukraine Air Alliance. For its part, the SALIS agreement - the NATO solution - gives access to the An124 fleets of the companies Volga Dnieper (Russian) and Antonov Design Bureau (Ukrainian).
The two solutions used for the strategic chartering of the French armies were therefore heavily dependent on Russian or Ukrainian wide-body aircraft, and in particular the Antonov An-124s. This posed a real problem of sovereignty, pointed out for several years by parliamentarians and journalists. Because in fact, it was the Russians and Ukrainians who had control over the projection of French forces on foreign theaters. Beyond questions of sovereignty, the French side has also expressed concern that the strategic transport of its forces will depend on private companies.
A parliamentary report was moved by this situation in 2015, to the point of triggering an investigation by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office. 4 years after the start of the investigations, and without any indictment noted, the investigations clearly did not make it possible to justify the fears raised then on the effectiveness and the conformity of the "private" solutions. But the question then became political. Regardless of the cost, France must regain its sovereignty in the field of force projection.
The days of charter seem to be over. There is now a real political will to use heritage resources as a priority, taking advantage of the arrival of the A400M "Atlas" transport aircraft and the A330 MRTT "Phénix" refueler to fill the French deficit in terms of own capacity. of strategic transport. According to the Ministry of the Armed Forces , since 2018 France has "a complementary and coherent set of 35 A400M and 15 MRTT".
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