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The French Air Force ( (ALA), literally Air Army) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. Formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique.


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 successful effort to develop a home grown aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way 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 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-Diziermarker.

After an absence lasting several decades, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that France will rejoin the NATO integrated command.


The ALA is organised into 3 levels:

Central Command

The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is Chief of the armed forces, 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 Frenchmarker 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 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

On its airbases in Europe and abroad the CFA has 16000 personnel, 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 organisation.

CDAOA, based in Paris and Lyon, plans and executes all air operations. 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 has taken over many 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, 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. In 2007, the CFPSAA has been renamed BAFSI (Brigade Aérienne des Forces de Sécurité et d'Intervention).

Airbase Command

The air base command levels are the combat assets of the ALA. 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 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 almost similar infrastructure to provide standardised 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. On average, a base platform, 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.


Northern region

BA117 Paris, HQ of the French Air Force
  • BA 102 Dijon airbase. Air defence squadrons equipped with Mirage 2000-5.
  • BA 103 Cambrai airbase. Units mainly equipped with Mirage 2000 RDI interceptors.
  • BA 105 Évreux airbasemarker. Command, operational and logistic support.
  • BA 107 Villacoublay airbase. 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 A310-300.
  • 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 airbasemarker. 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 squadrons equipped with Mirage F1-CT
  • BA 133 Nancy Ochey airbase. Fighter squadrons Mirage 2000D, SAM sqns.
  • BA 217 Brétigny. Personnel officer/nco selection and logistic units.
  • BA 279 Châteaudun airbase. Airplane storage base.
  • BA 702 Avord airbasemarker. CFAS nuclear strike stockpile. AWACS Boeing E-3 Sentry unit. Inflight refueling KC-135 unit
  • BA 705 Tours airbase. Fighter pilot training school.
  • BA 901 Drachenbronn. Air defence radar command reporting centre.
  • BA 921 Tavernymarker. Strategic Air Command (CFAS)
  • DA 273 Romorantin air detachment. Logistic unit.
  • DA 922 - Doullens air detachment. Disbanded command reporting centre.

Southern Region

  • 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 airbasemarker. Air defence squadrons Mirage 2000D and transition sqn Mirage 2000B.
  • BA 118 Mont de Marsan airbase. Home of CEAM, the Air Force military experience centre, Air defence radar command reporting centre, instruction centre for air defence control.
  • BA 120 Cazaux airbase, situated South-west of the port city of Bordeauxmarker. Air force airplane stockpile.
  • BA 125 Istres airbasemarker. CFAS nuclear strike stockpile. Strike squadrons equipped with Mirage 2000N. Transall C-160 G strategic communication flight. Inflight refueling unit with C-135RF. 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 Provencemarker. Officer instruction school. Enlisted instruction school.
  • BA 709 Cognac airbasemarker. 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 New Caledonia, Pacific Air defence radar command BA 376 New Caledonia, Air defence squadrons Mirage 2000D and transition sqn Mirage 2000B, training facility
  • BA 104 Abu Dhabi

Aircraft inventory

The French Air Force operates a fleet of aircraft, fighters, transport aircraft, passenger transport and helicopters. It 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. The French Air Force has a fleet of aircraft, including Alpha Jet, Xingu, Epsilon, and Tucano, to meet training requirements.

The Air 2010 concept allows for 300 fighters, mainly composed of the new generation multirole combat airplane Rafale.

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Service entry Note
Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma SAR
Transport helicopter
SA 330 29 1974
Airbus A310 Strategic transport A310-304 3 1994
Airbus A319 VIP transport A319-115 CJ 2 2002
Airbus A330 VIP transport A330-223 1 2009 On order
Airbus A340 Strategic transport A340-211 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
1991 6 to 10 more might be ordered soon
Dassault Falcon 50 VIP transport Falcon 50 4 1979 to be transfered to Aviation Navale
Dassault Falcon 900 VIP transport Falcon 900 2 1987
Dassault Falcon 7X VIP transport Falcon 7X 1 2009 1 more on order
Dassault Mirage 2000 Multirole
Nuclear strike
Total Mirage 2000
Mirage 2000B
Mirage 2000D
Mirage 2000N
Mirage 2000C
Mirage 2000-5
Dassault Mirage F1 Close air support
Total Mirage F1
Mirage F1B
Mirage F1CR
Mirage F1CT
Dassault Rafale Multirole
Rafale B
Rafale C
2006 Total 82 ordered.
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 Phased out, for sale
Eurocopter AS 532 Cougar Transport Total Cougar
AS 332C
AS 332L
AS 532
EC 725
6 + 5
Eurocopter AS 355 Ecureuil Utility AS 355 5 1984
Eurocopter AS 555 Fennec Utility AS 555AN 43 1986
Grob G-120 Trainer G120A-F 18 2007 "
Jodel D-140 Trainer 1966
Lockheed C-130 Hercules Tactical transport C-130H
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-160G Gabriel
Walter Extra 300 Aerobatic training Extra 300SC 2 2008



Like most modern defence organisations the French air force is reorganising its commands, units and assets. This project to streamline the forces is called Air 2010, which is the year of the deadline for 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 rationalise and optimise all air force units. The solution to reach these aims seems to be changing the organisation into 5 major commands, instead of the former 13, and to disband several commands and units.

  • CDAOA (air defence and air operations command)
  • CFA (air force command)
  • CSFA (logistic command)
  • DRHAA (human resource direction)
  • SAGF (administration and finance service)

See also


  1. that France will rejoin NATO integrated command
  2. Armée de l'Air
  3. French military aviation OrBat
  4. Les aéronefs, Armée de l'air


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