Why is the French Air Force seriously under-capable?

The upcoming signing of the contract for the sale of 18 Rafale aircraft to Greece is undoubtedly excellent news for the French defense industry and for advancing the French conception of a Europe capable of defending itself. On the other hand, this news will be perceived very differently by the French Air Force and Space which will be deprived, for a time at least, of 12 of its Rafale planes for the benefit of the Greek air forces, whereas it is already below its capability requirements in view of the operational pressure to which it has had to respond in recent years. And the situation could worsen with the possible divestiture of 12 other used Rafale in Croatia. It is therefore important to study the present and future format of the Air and Space Force in the face of operational pressure, but also in the face of emerging security issues.

An immediate capacity deficit

Today, the French Air Force is lining up 215 fighter planes, i.e. 105 Rafale, 65 mirage 2000D, 25 mirage 2000-5 and about twenty mirage 2000 C / B reaching the end of potential, and soon withdrawn. of service. According to the format defined by the 2013 White Paper, it must see its fleet decrease each time it reaches 185 combat aircraft, a format considered sufficient to ensure all the missions, including nuclear deterrence missions, and permanently project 15 combat aircraft into foreign operations. On paper, therefore, the Air Force will have the necessary and sufficient means to fulfill its operational contract. Even with the withdrawal of the Mirage 2000 C and B, and that of the 12 Rafale planes destined for Greece, it will keep a capacity format in accordance with that defined by the 2013 White Paper and the 2017 Strategic Review.

The Mirage 2000D will continue to represent 30% of the French fighter fleet until 2030.

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