Strategic Air Forces Command

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Commandement des forces aérienne stratégiques
Strategic Air Forces Command
Active 14 January 1964 - present
Branch French Air Force
Type Major Command
Role Strategic deterrence and nuclear warfighting
Garrison/HQ Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base
Colors red
Général de corps aérien Patrick Charaix

The Strategic Air Forces Command (Commandement des forces aérienne stratégiques) (CoFAS) is a command of the French Air Force. It was created on 14 January 1964 and is responsible for the use of nuclear weapons.

The headquarters was formerly at Taverny Air Base, but has now moved to Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base.[citation needed]

Général de corps aérien Patrick Charaix is the current commander.[1] This is the equivalent of a lieutenant-general's position. He took command in 2012, after a year as the deputy commander. He took over from General Paul Fouilland, in command from 2007-2012.[2]


A Mirage IVP of Bomb Squadron 1/91 Gascogne.

The first nuclear alert by a Dassault Mirage IV, supported by a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker tanker took place on 8 October 1964, armed with AN-11 nuclear bombs. This date marks the beginning of the operational duty of the French Force de Frappe (Strike Force).[3] It was planned between 1958 and 1961 that the aircraft carrier Verdun be built to deploy bombers at sea.

Initially, the Force de Frappe consisted of only of the 92 Bombardment Wing (Escadre), established in 1955 and operating 40 Sud Aviation Vautour IIB bombers.[4] These were considered marginal for a strategic bomber role and work began almost immediately on a replacement. In May 1956 a requirement for what became the Dassault Mirage IV bomber was drawn up;[4] this bomber was designed to carry nuclear gravity bombs over targets in the Eastern bloc at supersonic speeds and was declared operational in October 1964. It has been modernized since then. The Mirage IV-P version armed with the ASMP-A missile entered service in 1986. All bomber versions of the Mirage IV retired in 1996 and replaced by Mirage 2000N (entering service from 1988).

In May 1964, Genéral Marie, FAS commander, was replaced by Général Philippe Maurin, former commander of the Tactical Air Forces (FATAC) and French Air Force chief of staff in 1967.[5]

The mission of the Mirage IV was, beginning with a supersonic high-altitude flight (Mach 1.95 at 18,000 m), to deliver a nuclear bomb in as stealthy a way as possible (to a target determined by its own geographical location), with a circular error probable (CEP) of 90% (), regardless of the distance travelled.[6] Several penetration axes at high altitude and with in-flight refuelling against the USSR were established : one via the north via the Baltic Sea allowing attacks on Murmansk or the capital Moscow, the other via the south via the Bosphorus allowing attacks on targets in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics like Novorossiisk and Odessa or Sevastopol (Ukraine)[7] and one last without refueling in flight allowing attacks on the Eastern Bloc, not as far as the USSR.[8]


In 1968, CFAS headquarters was located at Taverny Air Base (BA 921) under the Montmorency Forest. The base had a fallout shelter. Headquarters was moved on 26 September 2007 to Air Base 942 Lyon – Mont Verdun under Mount Verdun.

In 1968, the command included at least 62 Mirage IVs. Eighteen were on operational alert at under 15 minutes readiness, from 1964 to 1990. They formed 3 bombardment wings with 9 bombardment and one training squadrons:

A C-135FR deof l'ERV 4/94 « Sologne » at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan (29 mai 2007)

Quickly cuts began to occur, with EB 2/91 'Bretagne' disbanding in July 1966, and EB 3/91, EB 3/93, and EB 1/93 in 1976, though EB3/91 was later reraised through the disbandment of EB 2/93.

There were also 12 Boeing C-135F aerial refuelling aircraft (of which 3 were on operational alert), divided into 3 escadrons (ERV) :

Finally the command also included:

In 1985, CFAS had two squadrons of S-3 IRBMs at the Plateau d'Albion, six squadrons of Mirage IVAs (at Mont de Marsan, Cazaux, Orange, Istres, St Dizier, and EB 3/94 at Luxeuil), and three squadrons of KC-135Fs, as well as the training/reconnaissance unit, CIFAS 328, at Bordeaux.[11]

On 16 July 1999, BA 200 on the Plateau d'Albion was transferred and renamed as Quartier Maréchal Kœnig, to house the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment (2e REG) and the bi-static space surveillance station GRAVES of the General Directorate for External Security.

At the end of 2010, there were no more than two nuclear squadrons, each of 20 aircraft, as part of the FAS: Escadron de chasse 1/91 Gascogne at Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base equipped with the Rafale B, and Escadron de chasse 2/4 Lafayette at Istres-Le Tube Air Base. EC 2/4, equipped with the Mirage 2000N, was operational with the ASMP-A since 1 October 2009.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Lieutenant General Patrick Charaix". Forces Aériennes Stratégiques. Retrieved July 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ Diallo, Mariama (4 July 2012). "L'adieu aux armes du commandant des forces aériennes stratégiques" [A Farewell to Arms for Commander of Strategic Air Forces]. Le Journal de l'Aviation. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Detailed Chronology", Strategic Air Forces 
  4. ^ a b Gunston, Bill. Bombers of the West. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons; 1973. p105
  5. ^ Poilbout, Aurélien (2011). "Quelle stratégie nucléaire pour la France?. L'armée de l'Air et le nucléaire tactique intégré à l'OTAN (1962-1966)" [What nuclear strategy for France? The Air Force and tactical nuclear weapons integrated into NATO (1962-1966)]. Revue historique des armées (in French). 262: 46–53. 
  6. ^ Jean Cabrière (1989). "Le programme Mirage IV" [The Mirage IV Program]. Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains (in French). Paris: Presses universitaires de France. ISSN 0984-2292. 
  7. ^ According to André Dumoulin, « La dissuasion nucléaire française en posture méditerranéenne », dans Revue du RMES, volume II, No. 1, Bruxelles, 2005 (, la préférence donnée aux 4 bases in the Southern region lors d'exercices à grande vitesse Méditerranée (GVM) (Mediterranean High Speed) which were dictated by the weak radius of action of the Mirage IV, la longueur de leurs pistes permettant le décollage à pleine charge des C-135F, the risks de ravitaillement au-dessus de la Baltic Sea et le souhait d’éloigner la menace de frappe désarmante venant de l’Est visant les bases aériennes de la région Nord. The most likely scénario was probably a flight of 2,200 km le long des atterrages nord de la Mediterranéan Sea, a last in-flight refueling over the Aegean Sea, before a vol de pénétration flight at high then low altitudes avant d’atteindre des cibles en Russie du sud, en Ukraine et en allonge extrême the city of Moscow. Des ciblages secondaires et anti-forces pouvaient probably impliquer the Soviet installations in North Africa (Algéria, Égypt, Libya) and in Syria.
  8. ^ According to certain sources concordantes telles Hervé Beaumont, « Mirage IV : le bombardier stratégique : histoire du vecteur aérien piloté de la force de dissuasion nucléaire française », Larivière, coll. « Docavia », Paris, 2003, ISBN 2914205023, or Marc Theleri, « Initiation à la force de frappe française, 1945-2010 », Stock, Paris, 1997 ISBN 2234047005, il est imaginé des vols kamikaze jusqu’aux cibles soviétiques but equally return flights with planification de zones de crash et abandon de l’équipage au-dessus the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
  9. ^ Disbanded in July 1996
  10. ^ a b Disbanded in 1983
  11. ^ Isby, David; Kamps, Charles (1985). Armies of NATO's Central Front. London: Jane's Publishing Company. pp. 168–170. ISBN 0-7106-0341-X. 
  12. ^ Jean-Dominique Merchet (11 June 2010). "Le Rafale prendra l'alerte nucléaire dès le 1er juillet". Libération. Retrieved 15 June 2010. 

Further reading

  • Embassy of France in India, Strategic force projection of Rafales
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