By Babak Taghvaee, correspondent to the Greek publications PTISI & DIASTIMA – Preparations for the Flypasts of Bastille Day Parade
The French Ministry of Defense has planned to hold the flypasts of the Bastille Day Military Parade with 52 airplanes and 22 helicopters of French Air Force, Army Aviation and Navy Aviation, as well as the Gendarmerie Aviation and Civil Security on 14 July 2020. A rehearsal was held for formation leaders and their wingmen at BA123 in Orléans on 30 June 2020. It was the first time that such a group rehearsal was being held in BA123 due to closure of the Châteaudun Air Base where the rehearsals have always been taking place in the past until 2019. With another rehearsal planned on July 9, the participants will be ready to take part in the military parade over the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 14.
The first rehearsal
After completion of the formation flight trainings of the flight crews in their mother bases, the first group rehearsal of the participants was held in the BA123 Orléans. Fourteen Air Force squadrons, ten Navy Aviation Squadrons and two Combat Helicopter Regiments of the Army Aviation participated in the group rehearsal with thirty-eight airplanes including a civilian Dassault Falcon 2000LX and eight helicopters including a civilian Airbus (Eurocopter) EC225LP Super Puma of Airtelis with F-HRLI civil register on loan by the Air Force. In addition, two Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets from 1(F)Sq (1st Fighter Squadron) of the Royal Air Force participated in the rehearsal. During their flight to France and then their return to RAF Lossiemouth, they were both refuelled by ZZ332, an Airbus A330-243MRTT of the Royal Air Force.
All helicopters as well as the cargo airplanes together with a French Air Force’s KC-130J and two Civil Security airplanes were flown from Orléans while the nineteen fighter jets of the Air Force as well as the four Rafale Ms of the Navy participated from BA105 at Évreux. The other Air Force airplanes which were a C-135FR, a KC-135RG, two Airbus A330-243MRTTs and an E-3F, which participated from their mother bases, i.e. BA125 at Istres and BA702 at Avord. The civilian Dassault Falcon 2000LX was flown fromB A107 at Villacoublay-Vélizy while the E-2C, Atlantique 2 and Falcon 50MS of the Navy Aviation came from Lorient. An Alpha Jet E with E107 serial and 705-UD code was used for observing the formation flights of the airplane.
Flypast of the airplanes
The first airplane which was an Air Force’s CN-235M-200 with 123 serial number and 62-IM tail code departed Orléans at 10:04 am local time. At the same time, the first fighter jet left Évreux. The last airplanes which left the BA123 at 10:16AM were Canadair CL-415 and Bombardier DHC-8-400Q MR from Securite Civile. The participants then joined up and formed total 11 formations flights West, South and North of the air base. After the join-ups, the flypasts started from the West to the East of the air base over its runway.
19 fighter jets comprising five Rafale Cs, six Rafale Bs, a Mirage 2000C RDI, two Mirage 2000-5F, a Mirage 2000B and four Mirage 2000Ds as well as an E-3F AWACS, a C-135FR tanker, a KC-135RG tanker, two Airbus A330-243MRTT tankers, two CN-235M-200 light cargo airplanes, two Airbus A400M heavy cargo airplanes and a KC-130J tanker transport airplane were share of the air force in these flypasts. The Navy Aviation (Aéronavale) with an E-2C AEW&C airplane, four Rafale M fighter jets, an Atlantique 2 Maritime Patrol Airplane and a Falcon 50MS Search and Rescue airplane, as well as a Civil Security with the CL-415 and DHC-8-400Q MR participated also to the demonstration.
Flypast of the helicopters
The helicopters which participated in the rehearsal were first flown from their mother bases to the BA123. After being refuelled and prepared for the rehearsal, their engines were started at 11:30 am and then the helicopters began taxiing toward the 25 Runway. At the same time the airplanes which had been flown from the base returned and landed on 25 RWY between 11:35 and 11:43. A Mirage 2000D, a Rafale C and a Rafale M (from the French Navy) together with the Alpha Jet E which had been used for monitoring the flypasts landed at the base.
After join-ups and line-ups at the west of the air base, the helicopters performed their flypasts over the runway between 12:05 and 12:07 am. Five of them flew solo while three of them which were from the Navy flew in formation. The first helicopter which passed over the rehearsal area was the civilian EC225LP of Airtelis with F-HRLI civil register which had been leased by the air force to be used by two EC725R2 pilots of the 01.067 Helicopter Squadron. The other helicopters which flew next to the F-HRLI were a NH90-TTH of the Army, an AS.555AN Fennec of the Air Force, a three-ship arrow formation of Navy helicopters consisted of a NH90-FH, a SA365F1 and an AS565SA followed by two more Army helicopters flying solo which were a Tigre HAD and a SA342M.
After the flypasts, the helicopters landed at BA123 between 12:19 and 12:23 and taxied back to the parking area and the first group rehearsal of the participants of the air parade on 14 July ended. The second group rehearsal is scheduled to be held over the Champs-Élysées with only the formation leaders on 9 July in-order to increase their readiness and skill for the incoming parade five days later. The Royal Air Force and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) will this year again participate to the air parade, this time with a pair of Typhoon FGR4s and an Airbus A400M cargo airplane respectively.