Led by Rafale and Typhoon fighters, French and German military aircraft relax in the Indo-Pacific
Over the past few weeks, the Indo-Pacific has witnessed a colossal display of air power from two great European nations, Germany and France. They demonstrated their ability to carry out rapid, long-range air deployments in the Indo-Pacific region ahead of Australia’s largest multinational exercise Pitch Black.
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France’s air deployment, the “Pégase 2022”, continues and will last until September 18. The deployment was planned as a continuum of exercises and stops in the Indo-Pacific, comprising three distinct phases.
The first phase involved a military exercise near New Caledonia, which considered a scenario of a fictional island of “Badland” showing signs of invasion from its neighbor “Goodland”, and France, after sensing the risk for its territory, decided to send its air assets to the region within 72 hours.
As part of this scenario, a contingent of the Air and Space Force consisting of three Dassault Rafale fighters, two Airbus A330 multirole tankers (MRTT) and two A400M Atlas transport aircraft arrived in the South Pacific on August 13 on schedule.
Above all, the French contingent on its way to the South Pacific made a technical stopover at the Indian Air Force’s Sulur base in Tamil Nadu on August 10 and 11, demonstrating the implementation of the logistics support agreement. mutual agreement signed between France and India in 2018.
The second phase of Pegasus 2022 involved the participation of the AAE contingent in Pitch Black 2022 organized by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which started on August 19 and continued until September 8.
An Air Force A330 Phénix, deployed for #PitchBlack2022 in Amberley 🇦🇺, refueled the IAF Sukhoi SU-30s before landing in Darwin. This is the first time that 🇫🇷 has refueled 🇮🇳 jets in flight during their projection. #Interoperability @IAF_MCC @Air Force pic.twitter.com/WRNuUNaLui
— Emmanuel Lenain 🇫🇷🇪🇺 (@FranceinIndia) August 18, 2022
After that, the French contingent departed Darwin, Australia on September 11 and is currently undertaking the final phase of Pegasus 2022, which includes two enhanced stages of air diplomacy and knowledge dissemination missions in Indonesia and Singapore, followed by a stopover in the United Arab Emirates. at Al Dhafra Air Base 104, before returning to France.
This will be the longest aerial deployment carried out by the French Air Force, some 18,000 kilometers from its national territory.
“The objective was to demonstrate that we are capable of projecting air power to protect either our territory or the territory of an ally”, Major General Stéphane Groen, chief of staff of the Air Operations Command of the Air and Space Force and commander of the exercises, told Nikkei Asia.
The French air deployment overlapped with Germany’s Rapid Pacific 2022, in which the Luftwaffe sent a contingent of six Eurofighter planes and seven support planes from Germany to Singapore within 24 hours.
On August 15, six Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets took off from Germany, nearly 30 minutes after the departure from Cologne of four A400M transport planes and three A330 tankers. Within 24 hours of leaving, the Luftwaffe contingent arrived in Singapore from where it reached Darwin, Australia to participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2022.
The most notable aspect of this air deployment was that the Luftwaffe contingent had to perform around 200 aerial refueling maneuvers to make this long flight possible.
“We want to demonstrate that we can be in Asia in a day,” German Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz told Defense News of the deployment.
Europe’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
These long-range deployments to the Indo-Pacific from European countries reflect a growing focus within European capitals on the security challenges China poses to European interests in the region.
Last year, the European Union (EU) released its “Indo-Pacific Cooperation Strategy”, according to which rising tensions in regional hotspots such as the South and East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait could have a direct impact on Europe’s security and prosperity.
The Indo-Pacific is the EU’s second largest export destination and home to four of the EU’s top ten trading partners. It is home to important waterways of vital importance to EU trade, including the Strait of Malacca, the South China Sea and the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb. The EU wants to maintain stability and freedom of navigation in this area.
Germany’s deployment is noteworthy, as German military assets are not known to frequently visit the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, France maintains a regular military presence in the region.
Indeed, unlike Germany, France is a resident power in the Indo-Pacific, with several territories in the southern Indian and Pacific oceans that are home to around 550,000 French citizens, which means that it has interests direct security concerns in the region.
Michito Tsuruoka, associate professor of international security and European politics at Japan’s Keio University, said France could deploy troops to the South Pacific as a precautionary measure in the event of an imminent conflict in the South China Sea.
Nevertheless, Germany has gradually increased its military presence in the region, albeit cautiously, so as not to provoke China, with which it has strong trade relations.
Consequently, Lt. Gen. Gerhartz told the media before his long-range air deployment that German fighter jets would fly civilian air traffic routes and not fly over the Taiwan Strait.
Additionally, last year Germany sent a Brandenburg-class frigate, the Bayern, to the Indo-Pacific for a six-month mission marking the first German naval deployment to the region in more than two decades. The German frigate avoided the disputed shipping routes, experts say.