By Babak Taghvaee – On 14 July 2020, 42 airplanes and 18 helicopters participated in Bastille Day Military parade over the Champ-Elysées. The parade initially planned flying 52 airplanes as 22 helicopters but bad weather conditions in Evreux – among other things – resulted in the cancellation of the flights of ten airplanes mostly Mirage 2000B/Ds due to safety precautions. In total 30 airplanes and 3 helicopters from 18 squadrons of the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air), 7 airplanes and 3 helicopters of the French Navy Aviation (Aéronavale), 9 helicopters of the Army Aviation (Aviation légère de l’armée de Terre); two airplanes and a helicopter of the Civil Security (Sécurité Civile); 2 helicopters of the Gendarmerie Aviation (Aviation de Gendarmerie nationale), 1 Airbus A400M of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and 2 Typhoon FGR4 multirole fighter jets of Royal Air Force participated in the flypasts.
Preparations for the flypasts took over a month for all the flight units and their personnel. It was started in the units when each one of the pilots involved in the flypasts practiced formation flight training. Then it continued until two group rehearsals were first held in 123 Air Base Orléans-Bricy on 30 June and then over Paris on 9 July 2020. The first group rehearsal involved 39 airplanes (30 from the air force) and 8 helicopters including a civilian Airbus Helicopter (Eurocopter) EC225LP Super Puma of Airtelis with F-HRLI civil register on loan by the Air Force. In addition to them, 2 Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets from 1(F)Sq (1st Fighter Squadron) of Royal Air Force from RAF Lossiemouth participated. The second rehearsal involved 27 airplanes and 17 helicopters among them a Luftwaffe’s Airbus A400M Atlas heavy cargo airplane was involved on 9 July 2020.
Due to low visibility and light rain in the west of France which reached Paris around 11:45 on 14 July, the number of airplanes which were supposed to take part in the parade was reduced from 52 to 42 and led to the cancellation of one of total 20 formation flights over the Champs-Elysees avenue. A day before the parade, all of the 19 French Air Force fighter jets which were scheduled to take part in the parade as well as their spare airplanes were forward deployed from their mother bases to Air Base 105 at Evreux. Between 11:00 and 12:15, seven Rafale Bs of BA113 from Saint Dizier, three Mirage 2000-5Fs of EC01.002, BA116 from Luxeuil arrived Evreux. Seven Rafale Cs of BA118 at Mont-de-Marsen landed at Evreux at 12:30 local time. Two Mirage 2000Bs of EC02.005 arrived at Evreux at 13:12. They were followed by a third Mirage 2000B of the Squadron at 13:45.
The airplanes were scheduled to pass over the Champs-Elysees at 11:11AM local time followed by the helicopters at 11:33AM during the parade on 14 July. They departed their bases between 09:00AM and 10:00AM before arriving at west, northwest and southwest of the Paris to join-up and form formation flights. The airplanes formed 12 formation flights while the helicopters formed 6 formation flights. The first formation consisted in the 9 Alphajets of the Patrouille de France display team with ATOS001 to ATOS009 call-signs.
In total 11 fighter jets of the Air Force consisting of 5 Rafale Cs from EC02.030 and EC030.030, 4 Rafale B multirole fighter jets from EC01.004 and EC02.004 and 2 Mirage 2000-5F multirole fighter jets of GC01.002 took part in the air parade. In addition to them, 9 Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France, an Airbus A330-243MRTT of ERVTS01.031, a Dassault Falcon 2000LX of ET00.060, 2 Airbus A400Ms of ET01.061, CN-235M-200 of the ET01.062, a CN-235M-300 of ET03.062, a C-160R of ET00.064, a KC-130J tanker airplane of ET02.061, an E-3CF AEW&C airplane of EDCA02.036 and a C-135FR tanker airplane of ERV04.031 together with an EC725R2 Caracal CSAR helicopter of the EH01.067 and 2 AS555AN Fennec light utility helicopters of EH03.067 and EH05.067 were the 30 airplanes and 3 helicopters of the air force which took part in the flypasts.
The Navy Aviation participated with 7 airplanes and 3 helicopters while the Army Aviation participated with 9 helicopters. The Navy airplanes were an E-2C AWACS airplane, 4 Rafale M multirole fighter jets, an Atlantique 2 Maritime Patrol Airplane, a Dassault Falcon 50MS Surveillance and Search and Rescue Airplane, a NH90-NFH Frigate Helicopter, a SA365F1 Dauphin II and an AS565SA Panther utility helicopters of nine Navy squadrons while the Army Aviation helicopters were 2 Tigre HAD attack helicopters, a SA.342Ma Gazelle observation/anti-tank helicopter, 4 NH90-TTH tactical transport helicopters and 2 AS532UL Cougar utility helicopters from 1st, 3rd and 5th Combat Helicopter Regiments.
The other participants of the flypasts were an EC135T2 helicopter and an EC145 helicopter of the Gendarmerie Aviation, an EC145 medical helicopter of Civil Security, a CL-415 firefighter airplane of the Civil Security, a Dash 8-402Q(MR) firefighter airplane, two Typhoon FGR4 multirole fighter jets of RAF’s 1(F)Sq including ZK368 piloted by a French exchange pilot and a Luftwaffe’s A400M cargo airplane. A Voyager KC2 tanker airplane of Royal Air Force also refueled the Typhoon FGR4s twice over the English channel during their journey from RAF Lossiemouth to Paris and back the same day.
Overall the number of the participating airplanes and helicopter in 2020’s flypasts was lesser that previous year but the French Air Force, Navy Aviation, Army Aviation, Gendarmerie Aviation and Civil Security proved their high level of interoperability and operational readiness not just for military operations during wartime but also for operations during peacetime including the Operation Résilience. This operation was a response to the COVID19 pandemic in France with the French Air Force’s Airbus A400M heavy transport airplanes of ET01.061 and EC725R2 combat search and rescue helicopters of EH01.067 playing a role in MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) of hundreds of Corona Virus infected patients. Bastille Day this year was meant to honour the medical personnel – both military and civil –whose lives are dedicated to medical support.