Transformation in the French Air Force in an Era of Change
MINISTERE DES ARMEES PARIS (FRANCE)
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The French Air Force, like all defense organizations, will of course take into account the changes in our military strategy reflected in the release of the White Paper of 17 June 2008. By implementing the various reforms directed in that document, it will thus continue to transform. But what exactly do we mean by transformation Why employ this term when, as our history shows, the Air Force has not ceased evolving since its creation For example, the Air Force of 1945 did not resemble in any way that of 1939. It had barely reconstituted its fleet of propeller-driven planes after the World War when it found itself passing into the jet era. At the beginning of the 1960s, it was engaged in the last colonial conflict using old, propeller-driven fighter planes two years later, however, it fielded strategic bombers at the leading edge of technology that were designed to penetrate the densest air defenses. Its focus was on Eastern Europe and halting the anticipated waves of Soviet armored formations during the Cold War, but it was also engaged in Africa, containing the expansionist inclinations of various state and nonstate actors. Things were never simple. We depended in 1945 on the good will of our allies for all that related to our equipment, because the French aircraft industry had practically disappeared in the war. To characterize the 1960s, I recommend the very instructive book by Gen Michel Forget, From the Vampire to the Mirage The Epic of a Generation of Fighter Pilots, which relates how long and difficult was the process of integrating into our forces legendary planes like the Mirage IIIC. Finally, I will cite the drawdown of our major commands since the first Gulf War, which has resulted in the continual reduction in the sizes of staffs and has required our personnel to redesign their organizations and work processes continually.
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