June 5, 1944
Musée de l'Aviation.
The Air Force
During the First World War, military aviation was used in fighting and reconnaissance missions. Thanks to progress in the aeronautics industry which had become capable of manufacturing sufficiently large planes, serious studies on the issue of airlifting troops were initiated just before 1934 by the air staff who hitherto still depended on the army.
This period witnessed the advent of several purpose-specific aircrafts, like the Lioré 213, Lioré 300, Farman 221, AB 21 or DB 70. As from July 1934, the French Air Force having been created, Potez 650 aircrafts were used to airlift the two air infantry groups (GIA).
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, these two groups were equipped with Farman 224 transport aircrafts derived from bombers 220, 221 and 224. However, with the option taken by staffs to concentrate their efforts on support to ground troops, air raids and attack, the GIA’s aircrafts were hardly used in troops airlifting and parachuting missions, contrary to the Germans whose Junker 52, developed in the interval between the two world wars, became the principal means of transport for parachutists and supplies.
In 1945, when the Second World War ended, the air force ordered for the manufacture of the NC 211 Cormoran, followed by that of the Nord 2500, which had lateral doors – and an after peak which opened entirely into the hold – more suitable for parachuting than civil aircrafts for which they were not meant initially. The air force fully exploited the possibilities of the Dakota which was available. During the Indochina War which followed, the Junker 52, the C 47 Dakota, and the C115 Boxcar, proved to be up to the task as they could fly almost in any weather condition.
They played a key role in accomplishing very disparate types of missions, notably:
Several airborne operations, some of which were quite huge,
Norias for supplies and reinforcement to ground troops,
Provision of fresh supplies to cities and remote posts,
Evacuation of soldiers, the wounded, and civilian refugees.
The Algerian War, which broke out in the same year the Indochina War ended, witnessed a slight shift in the use of transport aviation, given that parachuting operations had been abandoned in favour of helicopter-executed airlifts, carried out by the H 21 Vertol, (Flying Bananas), and the HSS Sikorsky. The role of transport aviation, particularly with the Dakota C47 and the Nord 2501, then became:
airlifting troops and airborne command posts,
localizing enemy positions and carrying out intelligence missions.
Learning lessons from the various wars and tapping from the battle experiences of those who occupied centre stage during hostilities, the staff has mapped out the major logistic guidelines required in OPEX type operations or even in interventions on the national territory.
The projection force created for overseas interventions, including the C 160 Transall designed and manufactured – like the Airbus – by a European consortium, is expected to bring a temporary solution in medical evacuation missions (EVASAN), the transportation of parachutist and commando units, and in-flight refuelling. It was realized that despite its short-distance landing capability, this aircraft is undersized with regards to current needs. France has purchased four American C 130 Hercules with a larger carrying capacity, as an immediate solution while awaiting a fleet of about fifty Airbus A 400M four-jet-engine aircrafts made by the military division of Airbus Industries.
A 400 M
The European military transport, just like the in-flight refuelling resources, is concentrated at the European Air Lift Center based in Eindhoven ( Holland ).