REDFLAG ALASKA 2007
At the invitation of the United States Air Force, the French Air Force undertook the challenge of exercise Red Flag Alaska 2007 at the beginning of this year. It had been several years since such an important deployment had been organized across the Atlantic. The goal of the French Air Force’s participation was to train air and ground crews in a very realistic environment after a projection of Air force assets more than 4,410 miles away from France. The French team comprised of pilots, mechanics and logistical crews accompanied by a French Embassy representative attended the IPC (Initial Planning Conference) at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. In that part of the world, freezing temperatures (minus 40 degrees Celsius) cut short any desire to venture outside for leisurely walks. Instead, the freezing temperatures served as excellent motivation to concentrate on the essential: welcoming 300 military personnel over three months for a 15-day operational mission. At the end of March, a fleet of eight Mirage 2000 (04 M 2000N and 04 M 2000D), two transport aircraft (C 130) and two tankers (1 FR and 1 UK) flew to the U.S. via the Azores (Portugal), Bangor (Maine), Winnipeg (Canada) and landed at Eielson AFB in Alaska. At the same time, four other planes (2 transport C 160 aircraft, 1 AWACS, 1 Airbus A 340 and one cargo ferrying 80 tons of freight) flew directly to Eielson AFB. On April 7, 300 personnel assumed their duties for the launch of the 2-week exercise. With two sorties per day for the fighter aircraft, and working days stretching from 5 a.m. until midnight, the personnel exhibited an absolute availability to fully meet U.S. Air Force expectations. The French military personnel collaborated daily with the U.S. military in each of his/her own area of expertise, enabling both militaries to forecast a high level of interoperability and partnership during inter-allied missions.The air crews took part in a wide scope of missions regrouping all types of complex ground attack exercises, while ground crews ensured the maintenance of aircraft under particularly harsh conditions. The exercise resulted in a 95 percent rate of success in the missions conducted as well as in the assurance to U.S. allies that France is truly a responsible partner. France’s participation demonstrated that the French Air Force is well positioned among the leading nations of the world.