From January 8 to 18, 2019, as part of its operational evaluation of its new Airbus A330 Phénix tanker aircraft, the French Air Force deployed a very long-range fighter patrol first to Djibouti, and then onwards to Reunion island, in the Western Indian Ocean.
Three Rafale B two-seat fighters belonging to the 2/4 "Lafayette" squadron, accompanied by two C-135F tankers from the 2/91 "Bretagne" squadron, flew to Djibouti, where France maintains a military base and pre-positioned forces. This eight-hour flight provided useful training for the Rafale crews for their strategic missions.
On Jan. 14, two fighters and a tanker flew to Air Base 181 on Réunion Island, a French overseas territory off the eastern coast of Madagascar, where they met up with an A330 Phénix tanker which, as part of its service trials, had flown non-stop from France to La Réunion.
On Jan 17, the Phénix accompanied the two Rafales back to their home base at Saint Dizier, in north-eastern France, after a 10-hour flight.
As part of its service introduction process, the A330 Phoenix has thus performed its first long-range mission since the first aircraft was delivered in October 2018, and prior to its achieving initial operational capability next autumn.
The increased performance and capabilities of this new tanker allow Rafales to be deployed over longer distances, with a higher flight endurance, while also being capable of long-range transport of both freight and personnel.