France deploys Rafale fighters to secure Vega 20 rocket launch

Armee de l’air et de l’espace

The French Air and Space Force deployed Rafale fighters to secure the launch of three military satellites from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Arianespace is getting ready for its next launch from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, due to take place on November 16, 2021. It will mark the 20th launch of the Vega spacecraft, and the 300th launch of the Arianespace family of launchers from the Guyanese Space Center. 

During its third mission of 2021, the Vega launcher will transport into low orbit three CERES [French acronym for ‘Space Electromagnetic Intelligence Capability’ – ed. note] satellites, 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds) each, for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Together, the three satellites, which are expected to enter service sometime in 2022, will give France its first electromagnetic intelligence (SIGINT) capability from space. As such, their launch will be a highly secured operation.

Controlling the air space

To prevent any air threat from disrupting the launch, the French Air and Space Force dispatched five aircraft. 

“Three Rafale planes from the 30th fighter squadron of the 118 Mont-de-Marsan airbase, a C-135 refueling plane from the 31st air supply and strategic transport squadron of the 125 Istres airbase, and [a Boeing E-3F] AWACS aircraft from the 36th airborne command and control squadron of the 702 Avord airbase are deployed in French Guiana from November 11 to 19, 2021,” the French military in Guyana said in a press statement shared by local news France Guyane. 

All the assets are stationed on 367 ‘Captain François Massé’ airbase. The latter is located in the vicinity of the Cayenne-Félix Éboué Airport (CAY).

The special air security operation, called Bubo, is put in place every time a launcher in Kourou transports into orbit a system with a military application.


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