Stars and Stripes – French Air Force brings Rafale fighter jets to Hawaii for the first time
US Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Samual Paparo, right, speaks with French Air Force Lt. Gen. Vincent Cousin, commander of air defense and air operations, during a recent visit to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. (Jay Pugh / US Navy)
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Three Rafale fighter jets and 150 French Air Force aviators are conducting training missions in Hawaii with U.S. F-22 Raptors until the weekend of July 4.
This is the first time that Dassault Rafale, the main fighter in the French air force and space, has flown in Hawaii. This deployment is in line with France’s desire to reaffirm its role as a stabilizing force in the Pacific.
The French air force and navy started using Rafale in 2001. The jets are very versatile, nicknamed “ominrole” fighters because in a single trip, they can be used for multiple missions, such as reconnaissance. air, ground support, strikes and anti-ship strikes.
Six F-22 Raptors flew on a training mission with French fighters on Wednesday morning, 1st Lt. Amber Kelly-Herard, 15th Wing spokesperson at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said in a statement. The F-22s are part of the 199th Fighter Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard.
The French Air Force contingent, which arrived on Sunday and will fly to the continental United States on Monday, includes two A400M transport planes and an Airbus A330 tanker.
A French Air Force Rafale fighter jet taxis at Andravida Air Base, Greece, April 7, 2021 (Thomas Keisler IV / US Air Force)
US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel Paparo on Monday met with two senior French military officials visiting Hawaii to discuss the French military’s position in the region, according to a US press release. Navy.
Paparo spoke with Lieutenant-General Vincent Cousin, Air Defense and Air Operations Commander of the French Air Force, and French Navy Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey, Joint Commander of the Forces French armies in the region.
The French military excursion to the Pacific coincides with the upcoming deployment of the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Carrier Strike Group 21 in the Pacific, a patrol which should notably transit through the disputed South China Sea.
The United States hailed the news that its longtime ally’s carrier will join the Pentagon’s efforts to keep a free and open Indo-Pacific by sailing in international waters that China claims with ever greater vigor.
Likewise, the French deployment “allows us to train with our allies in the most recent engagement scenarios” and “contributes to strengthening our partnerships in the Pacific region to face the operational and strategic challenges that we will have to face together in the next decades ”. the French Air Force and Space said in a press release provided to local media this week.
The Hawaii shutdown is the second stage of a “power projection mission of [France] to the Pacific, ”the press release said.
The first phase consisted of deploying, within 48 hours, aviators and planes to French Polynesia in the South Pacific. During those two days and the next 24 hours, the air group conducted a raid that simulated forced entry into disputed airspace.
The first seven-day phase of the mission aimed to specifically demonstrate the ability of the Air and Space Army “to protect its citizens and territories, even from afar, by reaching Polynesia in 48 hours and leading successive high intensity air missions on site ”. the statement said.
The “rapid and long-distance deployment” in the Pacific “reaffirms our nation’s commitment to the concept of freedom of air navigation and respect for international air law” and its “position as a stabilizing power”, the statement said.
After Hawaii, the French air group flew to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, where it will participate on July 9 in the commemoration of the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown. American and French troops fought side by side to defeat the British in this decisive final battle of the American Revolution.