What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Air and Space Force?

During the night of April 13 to 14, 2017, 5 planes Rafale from the Saint-Dizier base escorted by 4 Mirage-2000-5s, 2 Awacs planes and 6 KC-135 tanker planes, carried out a 10 hour and 7000 km raid to strike and destroy using the 2 SCALP cruise missiles carried by each of the Rafale, the Syrian chemical installations used by the regime of President Bashar El Assad, as part of a tripartite coalition bringing together the United States, Great Britain and France. Despite the significant Syrian anti-aircraft defenses implemented, all the targets targeted by the coalition strikes in response to the chemical attack on Douma on April 7, which caused between 50 and 150 deaths according to estimates, were completely destroyed. . This operation, called Hamilton on the French side, is just one example of the advanced capabilities available to the Air and Space Army today, undoubtedly one of the most efficient and seasoned in Europe, but also on the planet.

However, despite this undeniable technicality, and aircraft among the most efficient in service, the French Air Force has not been spared any more than the Army and the National Navy by reforms and budgetary restrictions having sometimes severely damaged its operational potential. While the hypothesis of having to confront, in the increasingly near future, massive and efficient air forces and integrated anti-air defenses continues to grow, what are, today as well as in the next decade? come, the assets of this air force? but also what are its weaknesses, and to what extent they can reduce its effectiveness, which is nevertheless decisive for all the French armies, and for the security of the country?

A powerful and homogeneous air force undergoing transformation

Of the three French armies, the Air Force, which in 2020 became the Air and Space Army, is probably the one that has been best preserved from budgetary restrictions and format reforms over the last 25 years. Due to its dimension as a technological army, it was less impacted than the Army by the professionalization of the French armies. In addition, it manages to protect, not without difficulty and many standoffs with the political authorities of the country, certain key programs for its modernization in these times of budgetary scarcity with funds from "benefits of Peace", such as the plane of fight Rafale, the A400M strategic transport aircraft, or the'' A330 MRTT Phoenix Tanker Aircraft, so as to continue its modernization including during the difficult years from 2005 to 2015 which did so much damage to the French armies. In fact, today, the Air and Space Force has a fighter fleet of 210 aircraft, including 102 aircraft. Rafale B and C, alongside a transport fleet of 70 aircraft including 18 A400M, 17 in-flight refueling aircraft including 6 A330 MRTT, 4 E-3F Awacs and more than 70 helicopters including 10 H225M Caracal dedicated to operations special and rescue missions. It also operates around twenty detection and communication satellites, a dozen MALE Reaper drones, around a hundred training aircraft and around thirty heavy transport and liaison aircraft, for a total of 580 combat aircraft to which in addition to the approximately 10 long-range SAMP/T Mamba anti-aircraft defense batteries and the 12 Crotale NG close defense batteries.

rafale TBA Defense Analyzes | Training and attack aircraft | Fighter aircraft
Le Rafale is today one of the best combat aircraft of the moment, offering versatility and advanced performance to the Air and Space Force, particularly in terms of engagement in contested environments.

Unquestionably, the Air Force surpasses other European air forces in many aspects, even more so when it operates jointly with naval aeronautics and its 200 aircraft. It also has rare capabilities for projecting power over long, even very long, distances, and a high level of training and technicality of its approximately 40.000 airmen and officers. From then on, like all Western air forces, the Air and Space Force not only represents the initial and final armed arm of French military policy, participating in particular with two fighter squadrons to the deterrence mission, but it also carries the majority of the firepower of the French armed forces, protecting and acting for the benefit of the land and naval units engaged in combat. Finally, this army is engaged in a vast modernization effort, which will lead it to field, among other things, 185 aircraft by the end of the decade. Rafale to the F4 then F5 standard, 15 A330 MRTT tanker aircraft, or even 50 A400M strategic transport aircraft, but also new aircraft such as the 3 Falcon Archangel Intelligence and Wiretapping, or the H160M Guépard helicopters from the HIL program, each of them providing unprecedented capabilities and performance in terms of combat, reach, transport capacity and cooperative engagement.

Critical capacity dead ends

However, this table thus presented does not allow us to take into account the critical capability failures that the Air Force faces today, or will face in the near future. Thus, and as we have already discussed, it has no longer had, for around twenty years, specific capabilities to eliminate or neutralize the increasingly efficient enemy anti-aircraft defenses to which its aircraft and pilots could soon be exposed. find confront. Certainly, the Rafale has an excellent self-protection system, SPECTRA, which has proven effective against certain anti-aircraft defenses, and even against modern airborne radars. But the Rafale, any more than the Mirage 2000, does not currently have any extensive electronic warfare capability capable of protecting airspace, nor does it have a munition specially designed to eliminate the adversary's radars, commonly called anti-radiation munition. .

Rafale meteor mica Defense Analysis | Training and attack aircraft | Fighter aircraft
Rafale in air defense configuration, with 2 long-range Meteor missiles, 2 medium-range MICA EM missiles, and 2 MICA IR missiles for self-defense and dogfights

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