Between 25th June and 3rd August 2023, 320 members of French military personnel participated in operational deployment in the Indo-Pacific region, codenamed Pégase 2023.
The main objective of the exercise was to prove the ability of the French Air and Space Force (l’Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace – FASF) to ensure the sovereignty and protection of population of the French territories in the Indo-Pacific, as well as to protect French interests in the area, based on quick intervention from the Metropolitan France. The deployment was based on so-called MORANE concept – flying far away from the continental France and its air bases, with the minimum equipment necessary to perform the mission and operate in complete autonomy but with great agility.
According to official information disclosed by the FASF, the deployment involved ten Rafale fighters (from the 4th and 30th Fighter Air Wings), five A330 MRTT Phénix multirole tanker and transport aircraft (from the 31st Strategic Airlift and Air Refuelling Wing) and four Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters (from the 61st Transport Wing).
The starting point of Pégase 2023 was set at Istres-Le Tubé air base (Base Aérienne 125), located in Marseille region. From there, the nineteen aircraft assigned to the exercise took-off for the first stage of their deployment – the 11,000-kilometre-long flight to Malaysia and Singapore with a stopover in Base Aérienne 104 in Al Dhafra, the United Arab Emirates. The target airfields were reached in less than thirty hours and the deployment was split into two groups. Six Rafale, three A330s and two A400Ms landed in Malaysia, while the rest of the group was based in Singapore.
During the second stage of the operation, the French aircraft reached the island of Guam. The flight was completed on 28th June, after 72 hours of flight and a 18,000-kilometre-long journey from France.
The French deployment spent four weeks in Guam, participating in the US-led exercise Mobility Guardian 2023 that also involved several other countries from the Pacific area, such as Australia, Canada, Japan, the New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The Mobility Guardian 2023 exercise was considered by the US Air Mobility Command as the largest and the most challenging logistic training in years. The training focused on interoperability of the Allied air forces in support of the war operations, including implementation of the USAF programmes of Agile Combat Employment and Force Generation Model.
The scope of the Mobility Guardian 2023 exercise included a series of logistic-focused wargames with objective to secure spare parts, support equipment, fuel and ammunition deliveries, medical evacuation, air-to-air refuelling missions and search and rescue operations. Within the exercise, several familiarization flights were performed, increasing the interoperability level of the participating air forces.
During the exercise, the A330 MRTT participated in joint air refuelling operations with aerial tankers of the other participating forces, and finally, the A400M crews executed several maritime patrol flights, supply delivery missions and rescue operations.
An interesting fact is that the deployment included also a real SAR mission. The French A400M participated in a search of a ship in danger, off the coast of Guam. After locating it, the French aeroplane maintained visual and radio contact for five hours, significantly contributing to successful rescuing of all eleven sailors.
Apart from the USAF Anderson Air Force Base in Yigo, Guam, the Frech aeroplanes operated from Palau (with three Rafale fighters deployed there between 6th and 14th July) and Hawaii.
The French fighters deployed to the Pacific area took part in Northern Edge 23-2 multinational exercise, led by the USAF. For the first time, that training was organized outside of Alaska and involved air bases in Japan, Guam and Palau.
The Northern Edge 23-2 exercise brought together the military personnel of US Joint Force, an Expeditionary Fighter Wing comprised of airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings from Hill Air Force Base in Utah and the FASF, to support combined flight operations throughout the region.
In addition, the FASF deployed one A330 and one A400M to the French overseas territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia, where they performed a series of exercises with the local units of the French armed forces.
On 24th July, the third stage of the deployment began. The French aircraft were split into three groups and then flew to three different areas within the Indo-Pacific region.
Two Rafale fighters and one A330 were directed to Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia, where they became part of deployment supporting Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, during his official visit there. From Nouméa, the aeroplanes returned to France via Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
The second group flew directly to Indonesia, then returned to France via Djibouti.
The third group was deployed to the South Korea, where it stayed until 26th July. Then, the French aircraft visited Japan and next, on 29th July, also flew to Indonesia. That group returned to France via Quatar.
In all places visited by the French aircraft there were exercise flights with local air forces organized – such as joint trainings with F-15s and F-16s of the Republic of Korea Air Force, F-15s and F-2s of the Japan Air Self-Defence Force – as well as static exhibition of the aeroplanes for local authorities.
According to the FASF, the aircraft that participated in Pégase 2023 executed a total of 330 sorties – 170 sorties were carried out by Rafale fighters (500 flight hours), 80 by the A300 MRTTs (500 flight hours) and 80 by the A400M Atlas airlifters (440 flight hours).
Cover photo: FASF Rafales and USAF F-35 Lightning IIs line up in preparation of flight on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam – Northern Edge 23-2 (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Hannah Strobel)
All photos © U.S. Department of Defence (DoD). Information from French MoD and FASF press releases were used. DoD information materials were used, in compliance with Public Domain licence. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.