France began AP missions by creating the Territorial Air Defence Command on 20 Jan 1945, dedicating specific units in the defence of the nation's territory. Later, joining the whole of Alliance efforts when AP officially began in 1961. The first aircraft used by the French Air Force was the De Havilland-100 Vampire MK.1, which was a single seater fighter jet. Through the decades of improvements in engineering and technology, the French Air Force progressed to jets like the F-86 Sabre, Dassault Mirage, and now the Dassault Rafale.
The French Air Force has continually supported Baltic AP through deployments in Estonia and Lithuania and will continue to take an active role in AP with a deployment in May 2022.
The French Air and Space Force has continually supported NATO efforts by deploying fighters to defend SACEUR's area of responsibility since 1951
"The French Air and Space Force has continually supported NATO efforts by deploying fighters to defend SACEUR's area of responsibility since 1951. We have always worked closely with NATO command and control and supported the efforts with many French troops across different allied units. France has a dedicated AP command and have recently created a new brigade dedicated to AP," highlighted Major General Laurent Lherbette, Deputy Commander Air Defence and Air Operations Command.
A French Rafale intercepts an Allied aircraft during an exercise to improve interoperability and build air policing skills. Photo by Sebastien Raffin.
With the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, NATO expanded the Air Policing architecture to the Baltic Sea Region, and Allies have since deployed fighter jets to protect the skies. A key component of Air Policing is continued support from all nations. France has actively participated in this vital deterrence mission since the beginning.