The 2018 Air Force activity report tells us that the Air Force fighter jets in 2018 flew more than 10.000 flight hours in external operations (up 20% compared to vis-à-vis 2017), during almost 2800 combat missions. These values explain, by themselves and to a large extent, the tensions affecting the availability of Air Force devices, today clearly undersized vis-à-vis the operational pressure to which it must make. face.
Indeed, the current Air Force format consists of 102 Rafale B and C, 71 Mirage 2000D, 40 Mirage 2000-5 and C, and 7 Mirage 2000B training, or 220 aircraft in 2019. On the LPM2019-2025, it will have to receive 28 additional Rafale, and will see 65 of its Mirage 2000D modernized, while the Mirage 2000-C will be withdrawn from service, to have, in 2025, 131 Rafale, 66 Mirage 2000-D, 25 Mirage 2000-5 and perhaps 3 or 4 Mirage 2000B, or 225 aircraft. Ultimately, this format should be reduced to 185 combat aircraft, as planned by the White Paper on Security and National Defense 2013.
The format of 185 combat aircraft is designed to allow the Air Force to continuously project the equivalent of 15 aircraft on external theaters, in Opex or in combined missions, while ensuring internal missions and crew training. In this model, 5 aircraft are dedicated to operational transformation and technical training and 30 aircraft (Rafales) equip the 2 squadrons of the strategic air force. Of which 185- (5 + 15 + 30) = 135 aircraft remain in the fleet. Each device spends, on average, 4 months in maintenance per year, or 62 devices out of the 185 in the fleet. The 73 remaining aircraft ensure operational permanence, participation in exercises, the tactical reserve serving as a buffer with respect to the projected aircraft, and pilot training. Suffice to say that this format has no reservations about any cause of activity.
However, considering that a combat aircraft performs an average of 250 flight hours per year, the 10.000 flight hours in Opex in 2018 do not represent 15 aircraft, but the equivalent of 40 aircraft continuously projected in normal use, i.e. 250 collar hours per year for 4 months of maintenance. If the Air Force does not project as many devices at any time, because on average the number of aircraft projected is between 15 and 20, the operational pressure on these aircraft is much greater, reducing their duration. potential presence, and therefore consuming much more potential devices over the year.
Going back to the previous demonstration in a proportional way, we therefore arrive at a need for 40 aircraft for Opex missions, 5 for training, 30 for FSA, 40 aircraft for the strategic reserve, 15 aircraft ensuring PO, and 100 aircraft for training, pilot training, and combined exercises. To these 230 aircraft in fleet available, we must add the effects of maintenance, or 115 units, for a total of 335 aircraft.
Once reduced to the 225 aircraft in the fleet in 2025, there is therefore a deficit of 110 combat aircraft for the Air Force, or 35% compared to its theoretical calculation fleet of 335 aircraft. . There is no point in extending the comparison with the 185 aircraft of the LBDSN2013, or the RS2017, the difference being even more obvious.
How, under these conditions, does the Air Force manage to ensure such a deployment of force?
Like all the French armies for 20 years, the Air Force today over-consumes its military potential, so as to keep up with the pace imposed by political demand. In fact, pilots are less trained, planes are less available. And if, one day, international tensions intervene and France had to mobilize its forces, the Air Force would not succeed in aligning little more than fifty combat aircraft and crews with the potential and the sufficient training to participate in major war operations ...
To overcome this problem, it would be necessary to dedicate a Rafale production line (14 aircraft per year) to the French armies from 2020 to 2040, i.e. 280 aircraft, making it possible to increase the Air Force fleet to 340 aircraft, and that of Naval Aviation at 80. This would represent an annual cost of € 1,5 billion for the Army budget, but would generate more than 40.000 jobs in France, including 15.000 direct, themselves producing € 1,2 billion in social revenue. and tax each year, and a social economy of 400 to over 800 million €. The change in scale of the Rafale fleet, which would then go from 150 to 400 aircraft, would reduce the costs of maintaining in operational condition, optimize the logistics chain and availability, and increase the scalability of the aircraft. In addition, an ambitious national program would open up significant commercial opportunities by enabling certain potential customers to join the Rafale program in a form of co-production, like what the United States are doing with the F35 and the F16, to become a long-term industrial and strategic partner, with a much greater economic and technological interest.