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Three Rafale aircraft of the French Air and Space Forces will take part in the Pitch Black exercise in Australia

Three Rafale aircraft of the French Air and Space Forces will take part in the Pitch Black exercise in Australia

In 2018, the Air and Space Force [AAE] Take part in the Pitch Black exercise, which is organized by the Royal Australian Air Force every two years [RAAF], by deploying three Rafale aircraft from the 30th Fighter Wing in addition to the A400M, A310 and C-135FR tanker aircraft. Then, later, this detachment got involved in the Pegas mission [Projection d’un dispositif aérien d’Envergure en Asie du Sud-Est]that passed through Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and India.

PEGASE was an “opportunity to work with countries in the region and to demonstrate.” […] Our ability to show strength and power. This mission was also an opportunity to send a strong message to the ultramarines: Air power is there to protect all Frenchmen, wherever they are,” General Philippe Lavigne, then head of state. – Major in AfWA, commented during a parliamentary hearing, in October 2018.

This mission also had a diplomatic dimension, and one of its goals was also to show that France stood by its partners in the Indo-Pacific region, with the ability to deploy resources there within a few hours, if necessary. AAE’s participation in large-scale Pitch Black air exercises was part of strengthening military ties with Australia, which two years ago had ordered 12 conventionally powered submarines from Naval Group [ex-DCNS].

The 2020 edition of Pitch Black was canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic, and AAE returned to the Indo-Pacific region in 2021, via the “HEIFARA WAKEA” mission, which notably consisted of “shooting down” three Rafales, two A330 Phénix and two refueling aircraft. An A400M refueled in French Polynesia.

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Then, in September of the same year, Australia announced its decision to purchase nuclear attack submarines [SNA] Through an alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom [AUKUS] Thus, canceling the contract awarded to Naval Group. And with the diplomatic crisis that subsequently erupted between Paris and Canberra, AAE’s participation in Pitch Black 2022 seemed hypothetical, if not hard to imagine.

However, relations between France and Australia have improved since then, thanks to a change of government in Canberra. And the new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, is now working to “restore” the trust that prevailed between the two countries before the so-called submarine affair. This resulted in a new momentum generated during his last visit to Paris.

France and Australia will establish a new defense relationship. We will enhance our cooperation and exchanges related to common security interests, in particular through operational engagement and intelligence sharing,” he said, in a joint declaration published at the end of an interview between President Macron and Mr. Albanese.

Finally, AAE will participate in the 2022 edition of Pitch Black, which kicks off on August 19. This is already what she announced via social networks on July 22. It will field three Rafales, two A400M “Atlas” and two “Phoenix” A330 MRTT planes, as part of the “Henri Brown Force Show”, named after the SAS paratroopers from Free France from New Caledonia.

Thus, initially, the objective of the AfWA formation will be to reach New Caledonia in less than 72 hours from Metropolitan France, via Base 104 at Al Dhafra, in the United Arab Emirates. She will then join Northern Australia to take part in the Pitch Black exercise, which will end on September 8. Note that the South Korean and German air forces will participate “fully” for the first time. At least, if the ejection seat concerns of the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter EF-2000 are to be resolved by then.

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The AAE detachment will then continue the PEGASE mission, with interactions planned in Indonesia and Singapore.

Moreover, it will be discussed further in 2023, when AAE aspires to “project” in the Indo-Pacific up to twenty Rafale aircraft and ten tankers within 48 hours.