Earth circumnavigating adventure – Pacific Skies 2024

On 27th June 2024, forty-nine aircraft and more than 1,800 military personnel from France, Germany and Spain set out on a journey around the Earth, codenamed Pacific Skies 2024.

That unique and historic exercise is aimed to increase operational capability and to strengthen cooperation between the above mentioned European nations participating in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and their allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the 58,000-kilometre-long journey, the multinational formation is going to participate in countless training events on four continents, including four major international live-fly exercises: Arctic Defender in Alaska, Nippon Skies in Japan, Pitch Black in Australia and Tarang Shakti 1 in India (sometimes commonly called ´the Red Flag of India´).

´By participating in Pacific Skies 24, we as Europeans are showing presence in a part of the world that is of great importance to all of us,´  says Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz.

The multinational force participating in that circumnavigating odyssey includes: eight Eurofighters, twelve Tornados, four A400M Atlas airlifters, four H145M helicopters and four A330 MRTT multi-role transport tankers of the Luftwaffe; four Dassault Rafale fighters, three A400Ms and three A330s of Armée de l’air et de l’espace; and four Eurofighters, two A400Ms and one A300 of Ejército del Aire y del Espacio.

Pacific Skies 2024 exercise is marked by the first participation of the Spanish Air and Space Force in multinational training of such scale and complexity. Domestically, it was even compared to effort of pioneering Spanish aviators who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the 1920s. In addition, the Spanish pilots will also have the first opportunity to meet with Russian-made fighters operating by the Indian Air Force and participating in the Tarang Shakti 1 exercise.

Eurofighter EF-2000, Luftwaffe (illustrative photo)

Regrettably, it will be also the last participation of Tornado multirole strike aircraft in an international exercise of such importance and scale. Next year, the Luftwaffe is going to begin with the Tornado retirement procedure, aimed to completely withdraw that aircraft from active service until 2030.

It is also worth to emphasize the significant participation – 40 examples out of total 49 – of Airbus-made aircraft in the formation. The Airbus company is also directly supporting the exercise through additional service and technical advises ready to provide on-site, along the whole journey.

In addition, German and Spanish air forces will carry out shared maintenance of their Eurofighters and A400M Atlas airlifters. The French A400Ms were assigned the role of Search and Rescue platform in the event of emergency.

Interesting fact is that Pacific Skies 2024 will be supported by another binational formation, codenamed Griffith Strike. It will include three A400Ms, three A330 MRTTs and three Rafale fighters of the French Air and Space Force, as well as, yet undisclosed, mixed deployment of the Royal Air Force. The Griffith Strike formation will support multinational Pacific force from Australia and is going to fly there via the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

During the seven weeks of the exercise, the European force is going to visit Canada, Alaska, Hawaii Islands, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, India and the United Arab Emirates. The training environment will include almost all climatic conditions, from frozen icy areas, through tropical jungle to desert territories.

The exercise Pacific Skies 2024 is scheduled to commence on 15th August 2024.

Panavia Tornado, Luftwaffe (illustrative photo)

Cover photo: Dassault Rafale, French Air and Space Force (illustrative photo). Information from press releases of the Airbus company, German, French and Spanish MoDs were used.