Operation Minotaur: French Air Force Acts Far, Fast and Strong
(Source: French Air and Space Force; issued Dec 18, 2020) (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The French Air Force sent a detachment of seven Rafale combat aircraft, supported by MRTT tankers and an E-3F AWACS, to simulate an attack on Djibouti after a ten-hour flight, demonstrating the reach of its air power projection capabilities. (FR AF photo)
Carried out on December 15, 2020, Operation Minotaur is a strategic air force (SAF) power projection demonstration. Five Rafales, accompanied by tanker planes and an E-3F, carried out an air raid lasting over 10 hours – and over 8000 km - from Metropolitan France for a simulated attack of Air Base 188 in Djibouti, which was defended by realistic opposition.

This mission, representative of a high intensity conflict, demonstrates the capabilities of the Air and Space Force to act far, fast and hard.

In the early morning, while it is still dark, three Rafale from the 4th Fighter Squadron at Saint-Dizier air base and two Rafale from the 30th Fighter Squadron from Mont-de-Marsan took off for an extraordinary mission: quickly reach Djibouti, located over 8,000 km away, knowing that strong air / air and dense air / ground opposition awaits them upon their arrival.

The three Rafale B of the Strategic Air Forces will then have to penetrate the opposing defenses to simulate a missile fire, while the two Rafale C will provide air protection for the raid.

The Rafale projection from mainland France is supported by tanker planes, in particular by the new A330 MRTT Phénix of the 31st Air Refueling and Strategic Transport Squadron at Istres air base. This aircraft has exceptional refueling and transport capabilities, far greater than the venerable KC-135s also involved in the operation. Thanks to the MRTT, the Air and Space Force is now able to self-deploy to the other side of the world.


Conducted on December 15, 2020, Operation Minotaur is a long-range power projection demonstration by France’s Strategic Air Forces (SAF).


An E-3F aircraft from the 36th Airborne Detection and Control Wing at Avord air base completed the air system. Offering increased detection of all threats, it guarantees perfect knowledge of the air situation to the crews and to the FAS Operations Center (COFAS) which can monitor in real time - in particular thanks to the Link 16 tactical data links - the progress of such an operation.

After several in-flight refuelings requiring extreme concentration and fine controls, the deployed Rafales then had to face strong opposition. Several Mirage 2000-5s from the 3/11 “Corse” Fighter Squadron stationed at Air Base 188 at Djibouti, playing the role of adversaries, then sought to prevent them from entering Djiboutian airspace and to deliver their (fictitious) weapons. A wasted effort for the Mirages!

Carrying out high-intensity aerial combat after a self-deployment flight of more than ten hours shows an exceptional capability mastered by the Air and Space Force.

A few days after Operation Poker - an air mission of more than 50 planes reproducing a nuclear raid over the national territory - this projection mission once again demonstrates the ability of the aerial weapon to act quickly, far and hard.

From now on, the Rafale B and C, as well as an A330 Phénix, lead, with the Mirage 2000 of 3/11 Corsica, a valued training campaign until December 22, 2020. Then, it will be the turn of the Force Command Air Force (CFA) and the Air Defense and Air Operations Command (CDAOA), as part of the next training sessions scheduled for January, to take advantage of the exceptional setting offered by Djibouti territory. The opportunity to train in an environment different from France with demanding, but decisive, air force missions.

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