The skies came alive over Paris as France celebrated Bastille Day with a traditional flypast. Since 1934, aircraft participate in the annual parade on the French National Day also known as Bastille Day, highlighting France’s rich aviation heritage. The Bastille Day flypast 2023 was no exception, lining up an impressive total of 66 airplanes and 28 helicopters over the Champs Elysées. Let us delve into the highlights of this event.
The Patrouille de France opens the ball
The Patrouille de France took the honor of commencing the Bastille Day flypast, painting a tricolor of blue-white-red smoke against the cloudy sky. This year, the Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France were adorned with a new livery to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the aerobatic team.
The Rafale takes center stage
To celebrate 25 years of strategic partnership between France and India, 3 Rafale C of the Indian Air Force flew in formation with a Rafale C of the French Air Force 30th Fighter Squadron.
Illustrating the role of the French Air Force in daily airspace protection, one E-3F AWACS (36th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron “Berry”) was followed by an escort composed of 2 Mirage 2000-5 of the legendary 1/2 “Cigognes” Fighter Squadron, one Rafale C of the 30th Fighter Squadron and one Rafale B of the 4th Fighter Squadron.
Since 1964, the Strategic Air Forces (FAS) have ensured the permanence of French nuclear deterrence. France not only possesses the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile, but it is also one of the two European countries, alongside the United Kingdom, that does not depend on the United States for its deterrence through the NATO nuclear sharing agreements.
The French Air Force chose to illustrate its nuclear component with one A330 MRTT Phénix multirole tanker of the 1/31 “Bretagne” Air Refueling and Strategic Transport Squadron and three Rafale B of the 4th Fighter Squadron.
The French Navy carrier wing and maritime patrol aircraft
The French Navy carrier wing (GAé), operating from the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, serves as the vanguard of the naval air group, ensuring control over air and sea territories while also participating in nuclear deterrence.
The GAé was present with a flight group composed of one E-2C Hawkeye of the Flotilla 4F, six Rafale M of the Flotilla 17F, and one Falcon 10MER of the 575 Squadron.
The venerable Atlantique 2 (ATL2) carries out intelligence and anti-submarine warfare missions all around the world. In April 2022, an ATL2 was deployed to Romania to carry surveillance missions over the Black Sea.
The latest and final modernization of the venerable French maritime patrol aircraft known as the ATL2 was declared fully operational on November 14, 2022.
For the Bastille Day flypast, two ATL 2 of the Flotilla 21F and 23F flanked one Falcon 10MER.
The fight against fire
Recurring heat waves and droughts during the past 20 years have led to wildfires destroying twice as much of the forest surface as they did at the turn of the century.
When the prevention of forest fires fails, water bombers are the favored solution to try and contain the catastrophe. Through the air, they can reach harder-to-access areas much faster than ground firefighters, making their role particularly effective as first responders.
To portray that crucial mission, a Dash 8 Q400 of the French Civil Security water bomber flew by.