International Paris Air Show Le Bourget 2019—Air & Space Challenges for French Sovereignty and Freedom of Action
There are many factors today that have an effect on the stability of our planet, and indications are that France and Europe will in the future, even more than now, suffer from changes concerning the equilibrium worldwide. Lire la suite
A little more than a century after the advent of air power at the time of the battle of Verdun, the Air Force today takes part in daily activity for the protection of our citizens and in France’s commitments to the benefit of international security. It contributes to ensuring the sovereignty of our country and supports its freedom of action. Lire la suite
The Strategic Stakes of the Aerospace Sector
The main players in the French aerospace DTIB are models of industrial success and almost all have a distinctly European character. This willing inter-dependence should not be seen as a reduction in strategic autonomy but as a means of strengthening the French and European defence ecosystem.
Strategic independence is the result of a will to possess the ability to pursue a defence and security policy freely and autonomously. This principle is manifest in the sovereign control of extensive military capabilities whose assurance over the long-term requires that the Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DTIB) that produces, maintains and improves them be considered as a defence capability in its own right. Lire la suite
Rather like the case of aviation at the beginning of the Great War, it is essential that today we have mastery of space. The development of a space defence strategy would seem vital and could draw on ten proposals.
Whilst military history seems to be stuttering its way to extinction, extra-atmospheric space is at last being recognised as a zone of confrontation. In some ways we currently regard space as we once regarded aviation just before the Great War. At that time, the majority of military commanders still only saw the flying machine as a supporting tool for ground operations among others. Yes, its usefulness for gathering intelligence, communication and directing artillery fires had been recognised, but more offensive missions for aviation had not been considered. The First World War rapidly altered opinions by demonstrating in particular the need to fight in the skies in order to impede the enemy and to conduct one’s own operations. Materiel was therefore adapted to this new mission, men trained for it and ad hoc organisations established to manage it. Lire la suite
European cooperation in the civil aerospace sector has led to the development of ambitious programmes despite far lower funding than their US equivalents receive. On the contrary, military space programmes have up to now mostly national.
European cooperation in space affairs had some difficult teething troubles in the nineteen sixties and seventies, a period noted for the coexistence of two organisations, the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), exclusively dedicated to scientific research in space, and the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO), dedicated to development of the launcher Europa. Unfortunately the latter saw nothing but setbacks during its development and was abandoned in 1972. This failure was attributed to a weak programme management though in the end led to a positive outcome in the French proposal to develop the Ariane launcher in a far more technically-orientated programme to be directed by the French Space Agency (Centre national d’études spatiales—CNES) on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). Lire la suite
The increasing number of players interested in space scene would indicate greater multi-polarity, and yet it remains limited. The United States retains its dominant position and the traditional players in the field their technological advance. The international chess-board of space is being overturned as a result of the quantum leaps being made by the principal powers and the rapid catching-up by the hitherto less advanced space powers.
In January 2019, the African Union (AU) announced to the rest of the world its desire to create an African space agency modelled on the European Space Agency (ESA), with its headquarters in Egypt, whose head of state, Marshal Al-Sissi, has been president of the AU since February 2019. For such an entity to operate effectively, a great number of diplomatic difficulties internal to the AU will have to be ironed out. The symbolism of the announcement is extremely important: setting up an African space agency is one of a number of signals indicating that the strategic race for extra-atmospheric space is no longer to be limited to a select club of technologically advanced countries. This development is all the more significant given that the stampede we are seeing is not limited to civil uses of space. Lire la suite
Since the end of the Second World War, the aeroplane has revolutionised international relationships. The United States became the primary air power in the world and used it widely to develop its influence. Europe is today an incomplete air power because of its dispersion in the field of military aviation.
Admiral Mahan and Halford Mackinder each spoke in his time of the geopolitical shake-up that was brought about by maritime transport and the railways. The tremendous growth of aviation also modified the power balances between countries, but it was after the Second World War that aviation really began to transform international relations by dint of the incredible acceleration that aviation afforded to technological progress. By way of example, in the nineteen fifties Raymond Aron(1) highlighted the extension of diplomacy brought about by the arrival of bombers that could reach the speed of sound and which had a range of several thousand kilometres. The ability for countries to exercise their political influence or military power thousands of kilometres from their home territory then revolutionised the field of inter-state relationships and led to building hitherto unknown diplomatic groupings. Lire la suite
The raid conducted by France, The United Kingdom and the United States in April 2018 against Syrian chemical facilities brought out the strategic dimension of air power and the autonomy of action offered by long-range projection capability.
A year ago, during the night of 13 to 14 April 2018, Washington, London and Paris launched Hamilton, an operation under French command to destroy Bashar al-Assad’s stock of chemical weapons. These punitive strikes deep into Syrian territory were in response to the regime’s attack against the civilian population in Douma on 7 April, which France, the United States and the United Kingdom had warned would not go unpunished. With Operation Hamilton France demonstrated its ability to enforce its red lines, and at the same time provided proof of its strategic autonomy, especially to Moscow which had had the military and diplomatic upper hand in the region since 2013. Lire la suite
The Power of Aerospace in Military Operations
The assets in space that are essential to our society and our independence are facing growing threats that are often developing in outer space, itself becoming an independent field of strategic confrontation. Now we need to increase our capabilities and adapt our doctrine.
Space is a strategic issue, mostly unknown to the citizens. While the dependence of our societies, economies, citizens and military operations on space has never been greater and continues to grow, the risks, threats and vulnerabilities in space have never been so important and are constantly growing. Formerly the object of a relatively peaceful strategic competition, space becomes a field of confrontation and weaponization of space is an ongoing process. It must now be considered as a domain and as a component like the land, maritime, air or cyber domains and components. Evolutions of our doctrine, capabilities and organization are inevitable. Lire la suite
Given the increase in air traffic and in the number of public and private players in aerospace, France needs to strengthen the synergy between the various national bodies that are key to development in the sector.
Activity of the state in the air is often thought to be limited to security and air safety, and yet it is remarkable for the many fields with which it interacts. Development of national economic and industrial structures at a time of ecological transition, the importance of the air sector for tourism, town and country planning, international trade and maintenance of stock levels are just some of the areas for which the highest levels of security and safety are required. So long as all the players concerned by the development of the air sector coordinate their policies, state activity in the air contributes to facilitating national growth. Lire la suite
Action by the army extends into the air, where it uses its own means of firepower and movement. There is an increasing need for manned or remotely-controlled aircraft to support military operations and ensure their effectiveness.
The Army is a major player in the third dimension: it has its own light aviation section (Avitation légère de l’Armée de terre—ALAT) whose 300 aircraft cover the whole range of aérocombat—air combat in support of ground operations. It is a European reference in this field, capable of conducting long, high-order operations in either French national or coalition formats, following national or international modes of operation. Lire la suite
The rather special dynamics of cyberspace open up a new field of confrontation. It has become essential for the effectiveness of military action to be able to act there both defensively and offensively. For success,new systems and modes of action must be developed and it is essential to draw on the intrinsic qualities of the human being.
Globalisation and the digital transformation of society have led to the creation of a space in which almost all human activity can be seen: cyber space. Its characteristics offer great chances—economic, scientific and cultural in particular—since they increase trade, in turn favouring progress and the creation of wealth. And yet precisely because it potentially reaches all who connect to it and all deployed systems, it is also a world that attracts envy, and is favourable to crime, espionage, influence, sabotage and destabilisation. It is therefore an environment of conflict, which means that security and defence are at stake. Lire la suite
Throughout the past twenty years the appearance of new threats has been harbinger of increasing complexity in conflicts. Given this, the success of future military operations requires improvement in joint and combined Command & Control structures to achieve better joint action capability across the entire range of environments.
We know that our purpose is a just and moral one, for we seek only peace with freedom and we can succeed in this great endeavour only if each and every one of us is willing to give the full measure of courage, sacrifice, work and vision, not in a divided effort but working together in pursuit of our common goal. (Dwight D. Eisenhower) Lire la suite
The appearance of anti access and access denial in French strategic debate has brought with it a number of myths which need to be dispelled in order to understand better this concept that has numerous implications for France, a country whose expeditionary capability is unique in Europe.
In just a few years, concerns about “anti-access” and “area denial” capabilities (A2/AD) have erupted into French-speaking strategic debate. The concept of “anti-access” strategy first appeared in the United States in the decade following Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991 and was soon bracketed together with that of area denial. Whereas an anti-access strategy aims at constraining the ability of projected forces to penetrate a theatre of operations, area denial aims at limiting the freedom of action of such forces once they are present in the theatre. Although the two issues can be distinguished in conceptual, capability or operational terms, both come down to a single concern: states in growing numbers are currently looking to constrain the freedom of action of expeditionary powers in distant theatres. Lire la suite
The concept of Air Surface Integration was born of experience over the past few years and aims at better integration of assets during joint or combined operations in order to increase the effects of the committed forces. Its application nevertheless calls for both technical and human adaptation.
If you can knit up the power of the Army on the land and the power of the air in the sky then nothing will stand against you and you will never lose a battle (Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery). Lire la suite
The modernisation of the Air Force’s transport aircraft and helicopter fleets is in part necessitated by the greater distances and geographical areas covered by French military commitments and partly by the evolution of missions and the threats faced.
In words attributed to Winston Churchill, war is a transport operation—he who transports best will win. Whether overland as when, in his Russian campaign, Napoleon led over 650,000 men to the gates of Moscow in 1812, at sea as at Midway, where no fewer than seven aircraft carriers went into battle several thousand miles from their home ports in 1942 or by air to resupply and defend Na San, in Indochina, at the end of 1952, possessing the capability to project greater force and power has tipped the balance of many a campaign. Land and sea transport allow large volumes of material and men to be moved, but slowly: projection by air is the fastest method and is able to overcome numerous risks and constraints. This capability now dictates the initial size of any military engagement into a theatre of operation—its reactivity, in large measure, its durability and resilience, too. Projection by air is therefore fundamental for the forces. Lire la suite
Maintenance in operational condition (MCO) is a vital element in the success of air operations. For the Air Force, the MCO transformation plan for assets and procedures is of primary importance and depends on synergy between military and industrial players.
In January 2018, the Minister of the armed forces agreed a transformation plan aimed at improving the performance, efficiency and governance of Aeronautical maintenance in operational condition (Maintien en condition opérationnelle—MCO). MCO in the Air Force is of primordial importance, for it is an essential determining element in the success of any operation, a key factor in operational readiness and, perhaps less evidently, in the morale of personnel. The Air Force and all state and industrial players in the MCO structure are therefore fully mobilised to ensure the success of the plan and that it rapidly brings positive results within tightly controlled costs. For its contribution to this reform, the Air Force has initiated the NSO 4.0 project, which will look at modernising the level of operational support (Niveau de soutien opérationnel—NSO) within its field of responsibility to ensure the Air Force’s capability to fulfil all its missions in all places and in all circumstances. Lire la suite
Future Challenges for the Use of Force in the Air and in Space
Renewed interest in outer space had led to an increase in the number of systems and to the strategic necessity to keep watch and to have warning of hostile action. We nevertheless need to complement this effort by building a new diplomatic framework for collective security.
In a constantly changing worldwide strategic context, the innovation in in the genes of the Air Force is bearing fruit. While that innovation concerns the modernisation of equipment and development of modes of action it has also to include the functioning and the work processes of the service.
Over the past decade the world has seen profound changes and an upheaval in international balances that have led to a more unstable strategic environment. That there is a return of power politics is undeniable, but at the same time armed groups are benefiting from the endemic weakness of some states to extend their area of influence or control, the ramifications of which affect our democracies and endanger the stability of wide geographical areas. These changes are leading to a more dangerous world: because it is more mixed and more unpredictable, it poses new challenges for us. At the same time, and whereas for decades technological progress has been fairly steady, we are now witnessing a great acceleration in innovation especially in the field of digital technology, which forces us into continual processes of step-by-step change for the development of our future capabilities. Our potential adversaries having caught up, preserving our advantage means we have to improve the agility and performance of our air forces and our organisations. Lire la suite
Although the maturity and coherence of the deterrent mission of the Air Force will remain at their peak with the overall modernisation of its assets, the Strategic air forces (Forces aériennes stratégiques—FAS) must remain a technical and operational step ahead of potential adversaries in a constantly-evolving environment.
Among the missions given to the armed forces, the Air Force in particular, there is one whose history and culture is deeply embedded in that of our airmen: nuclear deterrence. Originally conceived as a collective effort between the armed forces, the procurement organisation (the Direction générale de l’armement—DGA), the Atomic energy commission (now called the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives—CEA) and industry, united towards a common goal, it was an effort without precedent, a national ambition that forms the basis of our defence and the ultimate guarantee of the survival of the nation. Supported by successive Presidents of the Republic for nearly 60 years, it involves commitment at all levels—political, strategic, operational, industrial and research and development (R&D). The armed forces’ role in this coherent chain of responsibilities from the highest level of the state down to the operators is to offer to the President of the Republic a variety of possible actions in order to guarantee constant freedom of French action. From the point of view of the Strategic Air Forces (Forces aériennes stratégiques—FAS), this effort is now, and will continue to be, a matter of operational effectiveness and demonstration. In this regard, the challenges that face the permanent airborne component are inseparable from those facing the Air Force as a whole and are related to that national ambition: it is important therefore that the objectives and motivation of that ambition are well understood, so in dealing with the issues of those future challenges we need first to explain the ‘grammar’ of the nuclear business—something that changes slightly with each era and each system. Thereafter we’ll look in detail at how the Air Force carries out the mission that falls to it now and into the future, of giving the President of the Republic the ‘language’ he needs for deterrent dialogue. Lire la suite
The growth in air traffic and the multiplication of air threats are forcing a new look at management of the sky. Security is ensured by national air forces but common control of European airspace is likely to become a major challenge for finance and sovereignty.
The growth of air traffic in Europe has direct implications on overflights of our territory, making adaptation of our current structures for controlling airspace more urgent. The common objective of the Single European Sky (SES) is the defragmentation of national airspaces and optimisation of air pathways, both civil and military. Future management of the Permanent security posture (Posture permanente de sécurité—PPS), which is the responsibility of the Air Force, will inevitably be affected by it and will have to take into account the growing threats from drones and terrorism. To respond to these issues, a new ‘policy for the sky’ needs to be established, which includes space aspects as well as those arising from the new arrangements for air traffic management to be effective by 2025. Lire la suite
The Future air combat system of systems (SCAF) is aiming at a radical change in the pattern of use of air forces. The programme is being designed around the airmen and multiple, connected platforms. It is a demonstration of the strong will for cooperation between European partners who are determined to stay in the strategic race around the year 2040.
Contest for space, and especially airspace, is becoming more hard-fought as a result of anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) strategies. A2/AD strategies are now keeping our forces at bay through a combination of firm defence action, attacks and harassment at hitherto unknown levels: such strategies are now established in the new battlefields of space and cyber space. Lire la suite
Technical evolutions are already transforming the shape of future conflict in the air. Integration and sharing of the capabilities and performance of each of the armed forces is becoming imperative to preserving our mastery of airspace and to responding to the challenges posed by progress in connectivity and automation.
For over fifteen years Western air forces have enjoyed total freedom of action in operations conducted in the main against irregular adversaries in unstable areas. They have been able to put permanent pressure on those adversaries everywhere in a theatre and to give effective support to forces on the ground. Resurgence of threats to that power could yet alter the physiognomy of future conflicts. Lire la suite
In the current climate of automation, artificial intelligence nevertheless looks to a future in which man remains in the loop. Man’s sense of responsibility remains the moral guarantee when lethal force is used. He must therefore remain at the centre of all future aids to optimisation of decision-making.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the four technologies at the heart of digital transformation of the Air Force as the Future combat air system (FCAS, Système de combat aérien du futur—SCAF) is being developed, in parallel with its use in the massive amount of analysis of data (big data analytics), in connectivity and in cyber-security. By combining the calculating and storage capacity of computers with the ability of human intelligence to adapt itself, this transformation is aiming to create a truly cognitive air combat management system.(1) Lire la suite
Air Force drones offer great potential as a growth area by the nature of their mission, their technical capabilities and their shape. Potential future uses of this remotely-piloted form of military aviation are increasing as the service goes ahead with its expansion.
Following a twentieth century that led to the dominant role of aviation in military operations, the twenty-first is sure to see a notable increase in remotely-piloted military aviation. These airborne systems, often at a lower cost of ownership than their manned equivalents, were originally designed to carry out missions considered ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’. In the air, their main raison d’être was to gather intelligence but their use has rapidly expanded as a result of progress made over the past twenty years, and they have become truly multi-role intelligence assets and valuable tools for tactical coordination. The Air Force now has considerable experience in the use of intelligence-gathering drones, and in particular, theatre or MALE drones.(1) Carried along by technological developments, remotely-piloted military aviation is moving progressively into new fields. Despite this increased call upon technology, man must remain the guarantor of supervised employment of his combat system and of its ethical use, and hence he must receive training appropriate to these challenges. Lire la suite
The network of air bases plays a fundamental role in the capability of the Air Force to fulfil its operational missions. Protection of these sites must develop with as new threats emerge, particularly those posed by drones.
Air bases, and the network of which they are a part, are major combat assets that allow the Air Force to conduct its permanent missions and at very short notice to project power or forces to give the political level the reactivity it requires. To continue to do this, like all of our armed forces they have to adapt to the new threats against them. The distribution of bases across national territory and on operations follows the principles that today define the Air Force’s stationing plan. Lire la suite
The technical nature of the Air Force demands thorough initial training that is complemented on a daily basis by operational preparation. The latter includes instruction of personnel, their in-flight training and battle preparation. Technical progress in simulation opens up new possibilities in the preparation for modern air warfare.
The most modern among air forces operate complex equipment with increasing levels of performance to respond to multiple threats. They often act in coalitions and in delicate strategic environments where error cannot be tolerated. Aircrews need to have a very high level of competence, acquired through a selective training process and maintained by demanding operational preparation that is representative of the type of current conflict in which they might be called upon to act. Lire la suite