Relations between the Israeli Air Force and the French Air Force have lasted fifty years
“This is a big plane, with a lot of power and flying it for the first time was an experience”
The General flew an F-15I plane from the Haterzim airbase
General Denis Mercier toured Israeli airbases and was impressed by their capabilities
General Denis Mercier, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force, visited the IAF last week In recent years, the French Air Force has accumulated operational capabilities through its combat activities in different areas of the world. General Denis Mercier, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force, visited the IAF and said that the French Air Force wished to promote close cooperation with IAF
Michal Khayut and Lior Estline
“I think that the French and Israeli air forces are similar in terms of capabilities and combat activities”, says General Denis Mercier, French Air Force Chief of Staff.
He is wrapping up a busy day of visits to IAF airbases. In the morning, he managed to fly the F-15I (“Raam”) fighter from the “Hammers” squadron at the Hatzerim airbase and a few minutes ago he finished touring the Heron TP (“Eitan”) squadron at the Tel Nof airbase, which operates the big UAV.
“Both of our air-forces know how to work alone and in a coalition, because these are air forces that possess high operational flexibility”, he stresses.
He mentions that the previous evening, he met with veteran Israeli pilots who operated the ‘Mirage-3’ fighter in the 60s. “Our relations with the Israeli air force have lasted 50 years and will continue into the future”.
In recent years, General Mercier has been commanding one of the busiest air forces in the world. He describes the operational activities of the French Air Force during operations such as Operation “Odyssey Dawn” in Libya, at the end of which the regime of Muammar Gaddafi fell, and Operation “Serval” over the past year, in which France provided active military assistance to Mali authorities in their fight against Jihadist fighters.
“I’m not sure if this is known, but the ‘Dassault Rafale’ planes that take off from France to carry out strikes on Mali fly for a period of time that ranges from 7-10 hours”, he stresses. “This is the highest operational activity and the experience we have accumulated in this operation as well as in the strikes against tanks columns in Libya while dealing with anti-aircraft batteries, is invaluable”.
The general insists that the French Air Force will not buy the F-35. “The ‘Dassault Rafale’ planes we own are at the forefront in terms of capabilities and we rely on our national aeronautical industry”, he notes.
He also supports his country’s nuclear deterrence policies that are implemented by a “Mirage -2000” and “Rafale” squadrons of the French Air Force, which are equipped with nuclear weapons. “Uncontrolled proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear know-how require France to continue and to maintain its nuclear deterrence capabilities”, he adds.