In 2018, the Air and Space Force [AAE] Participated in Exercise Pitch Black organized every two years by the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF], deployed three Rafales from the 30th Fighter Wing as well as an A400M, an A310 and a C-135FR tanker aircraft. Then, later, this detachment was engaged in the Pegasus mission [Projection d’un dispositif aérien d’Envergure en Asie du Sud-Est]which passes through Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and India.
PEGASE “was an opportunity to work with and showcase countries in the region […] Our ability to project power and energy. The mission was also an opportunity to send a strong message to the Ultramarines: the air force is there to protect all French people, wherever they are,” commented then-head of state General Philippe Lavigne. -Major of FWA, during a parliamentary hearing, in October 2018.
The mission also had a diplomatic dimension, one of its objectives being to show that France stands by its partners in the Indo-Pacific region, with the ability to deploy resources there within hours if necessary. AAE’s participation in the large-scale Pitch Black Air exercise was part of strengthening military ties with Australia, which ordered twelve conventionally operated submarines from the naval group two years ago. [ex-DCNS].
With the 2020 edition of Pitch Black canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, AAE returned to the Indo-Pacific region in 2021, with the “HEIFARA WAKEA” mission, notably “projecting” three Rafales, two A330 Phénix. and two A400M refueling aircraft in French Polynesia.
Then, in September of the same year, Australia announced its decision to procure nuclear attack submarines [SNA] Through an alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom [AUKUS] And therefore, canceling the contract awarded to the Naval Group. And, given the subsequent diplomatic crisis between Paris and Canberra, the AAE’s participation in the pitch black 2022 seemed speculative if not difficult to imagine.
However, relations between France and Australia have improved, thanks to a change of government in Canberra. And Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is now working to “restore” the trust that existed between the two countries before the so-called submarine affair. This led to a new impetus during his recent visit to Paris.
“France and Australia will forge a new defense relationship. We will strengthen our cooperation and our exchanges regarding shared security interests, especially through operational engagement and intelligence exchange”, a joint declaration issued at the end of an interview between President Macron and Mr. Albanese advanced.
Finally, AAE will participate in the 2022 edition of Pitch Black, which will begin on August 19. This was actually announced by him on July 22 through social networks. It will deploy three Rafales, two A400M “Atlas” and two A330 MRTT “Phoenix” there as part of the “Henry Brown Power Projection”, named after an SAS paratrooper in Free France from New Caledonia.
Thus, initially, the objective of the AfWA formation would be to reach New Caledonia in less than 72 hours from Metropolitan France via Base 104 in Al-Dhafra, UAE. He will then join northern Australia for Exercise Pitch Black, which ends on September 8. Note that the South Korean and German air forces will participate “fully” for the first time. At least, if the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter EF-2000 ejection seat concerns are resolved by then.
The AAE detachment will then continue with the PEGASE mission, with planned interactions in Indonesia and Singapore.
Furthermore, as it will be discussed further in 2023, the AAE has ambitions to “project” up to twenty Rafales and ten tanker aircraft to the Indo-Pacific within 48 hours.