At the beginning of May, fighter squadrons stationed in the north-east of France led an Entry Force training mission, notably for pilots qualified as Mission Commander. Below we look back on a flight planned by the Air Force Fighter Aviation Brigade (BAAC) of the Air Force Command (CFA), the Air Force command in charge of pilots’ combat preparation.
On May 5, 2020, North-East of France: Twenty-two fighter jets criss-cross the aerial combat zones tirelessly, from the banks of the Rhine to the gates of Paris, from the Pointe de Givet to the foothills of Burgundy.
Theme of the exercise: Entry Force. This is a capability that the French Air Force has largely tested in operations, and of which it has a certain expertise. From the coalition side (Blue Force), 6 Mirage 2000D from the 3rd fighter wing (Nancy), 2 Rafale from the 4th fighter Wing (Saint-Dizier), 4 Swiss F-18s and 4 Italian Eurofighter Typhoons, assisted by a tanker from Italy’s Aeronautica Militare and a French E-3F AWACS.
Facing them, the "Red Force" was made up of 2 Rafales from the 4th Fighter Wing, 2 Mirage 2000-5 from the 2nd Fighter Wing (Luxeuil), 2 AlphaJet from the 8th Fighter Wing (Cazaux), a Mamba air-defense battery (EDSA of Saint-Dizier) and the Cinq-Mars La Pile detection and control center.
For two hours, coalition forces continued offensive operations by air interdiction, attempting to achieve their goals with deep strikes. Their adversaries put up a high-level opposition, defending their territory in a logic of Joint Engagement Zone. The "Blue" side eventually won, but still suffered some losses that will need to be analyzed in order to improve.
Systematic debriefing will offer its share of lessons, in particular thanks to digital replay tools allowing to go through the various phases of the mission for training purposes.
This particularly intense training sequence is part of the compulsory skills consolidation missions (MICA) governed by the BAAC. These flights, using a variety of air assets, aim to validate modules of the training benchmark for the "basic level" of fighter crew proficiency, and provide the opportunity to optimize the combat readiness of the forces and to maintain the interoperability of all participants.
Objectives achieved for this large-scale mission organized by the 3/3 "Ardennes" fighter squadron. The 3/3 staff will have taken up the challenge, on the one hand by allowing them to meet the training deadlines despite the current context and, on the other hand, by setting up a scenario during which air traffic controllers, fighter crews and ground-to-air defenses operated together in a complex environment to maintain a high level of performance.
Carried out in a particular context, linked to the fight against COVID-19, this training will have made an impression, both by its efficiency and for more personal reasons. Starting with the last flight at the controls of a Mirage 2000D from Lieutenant-Colonel Stanislas, commander of 3/3 "Ardennes", who is preparing to leave the "Wild Boars" this summer.
Also during this mission, the Cinq-Mars La Pile detection and control center, "Raki Radar," set out to play its role as an enemy force to meet the training objectives of the crews. After two hours of intense air combat, Staff Sergeant Paulo, assisted by his team and under the impartial eye of his instructor, obtained the "grade 1A", the highest level of qualification for an air defense controller in a NATO framework. At the same time, Lieutenant Céline obtained her qualification as an operational duty officer.
* Joint Engagement Zone: the JEZ is characterized by the ability to obtain a military effect on one or more hostile aircraft, through mixed effectors (air defense fighters and surface-to-air defense systems) operating within the same airspace. It thus constitutes an essential element of the overall capability for First Entry, and makes long-term force action by prohibiting the use of airspace (combined fighter / ground-air defense action).