PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the French Air Force’s Special Forces Command, (Le Bureau Forces Spéciales Air, BFSA) (MOD, 2016c).
Prior to 2016, two other terms were used for BFSA:
- Special Forces Bureau (Bureau Forces Spéciales, BFS); and
- Office of the Special Forces Command Air Forces (Le Bureau des Forces Spéciales du Commandement des Forces Aériennes).
BFSA is the air component of the French Special Operations Command, the Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (COS).
BFSA is located at Airbase 106 in Bordeaux-Mérignac (MOD, 2015).
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the French Ari Force’s Special Forces Command.
PART TWO: ORGANISATION
This section describes the management (command and control, C2) of BFSA and its organisation, providing a brief outline of each of the units and their organisation and roles.
Air Force SOF consists of (MOD, 2016a): “The “air” units of the Special Operations Command (COS), Transport Squadron 3/61 “Poitou” and Air Commando No. 10 (CPA10) … In addition to the COS FS units, “Gorgones” welcomed a Caracal and its crew from the 1/67 “Pyrénées” helicopter squadron as part of its rise to special forces.”
The 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment (4e Régiment d’Hélicoptères des Forces Spéciales, 4e RHFS) is now permanently attached to the French Army’s Special Forces Command (COM FST).
The role of Air Force SOF is to provide specific reconnaissance capabilities, air support specific to air operations and tactical transport.
2.1 Chief of the Defence Staff
COS is an operational command under the authority of the French Chief of the Defence Staff (Chef d’État-Major des Armées or C.E.M.A), an OF-9 level officer.
2.2 Commander Special Operations
The Commander Special Operations (Commandant les Opérations Spéciales) is the title of the professional head of the COS (MOD, 2016b).
The post holder is an OF-6 level officer, either a Général de brigade (Brigadier General) or Contre-Amiral (Rear Admiral but equivalent to a Royal Navy Commodore); although in July 2016 the post holder was a Major General (OF-7) (Defense House, 2016).
Commander COS is under the direct command of CEMA and is the CEMA Advisor on special operations.
2.2 Commander BAFSI
The Commander BAFSI (commandant la brigade aérienne des forces de sécurité et d’intervention or Air Force Brigade of the Security and Intervention Forces) is the title of the professional head of the French Air Forces’ Special Forces Command.
The Commander BAFSI is also the Chief of the Air Special Forces Bureau and Commander of Orleans Air Base (BA) 123 (chef du bureau des forces spéciales air et du commandant de la base aérienne (BA)123 d’Orléans).
The post holder is an OF-6 level officer, a Général de brigade (Brigadier General) (MOD, 0216d).
2.3 Transport Squadron 3/61 “Poitou”
Established on 10 May 1945 as Transport Group 4/15, Transport Squadron 3/61 “Poitou” (L’escadron de transport 3/61 “Poitou”) is the Air Force’s SOF tactical transport squadron.
The unit is currently located at Airbase 123, Orleans.
2.4 Air Commando No.10
Air Commando No.10 (Le commando parachutistes de l’air n°10, CPA10) is the first of three paratrooper commando units:
- The Orléans CPA 10 has significant capabilities in the areas of intelligence and commando-type operations, laser weapon guidance and reconnaissance of assault courts. As part of the Special Air Force (FSA), the CPA 10 operates primarily for the Special Operations Command (COS).
- The CPA 20 in Dijon is specialised in air support focused on fire with no less than four teams regularly engaged in Afghanistan and Chad. It also has other missions: external patrols; land reconnaissance for storming; evacuation of nationals; protection of air force facilities in metropolitan France and foreign operations; and participation in active air security measures (MASA).
- Specialised in RESCo (combat search and rescue) and personnel recovery, the CPA 30 of Bordeaux contributes to the active measures of air security. It is also capable of providing fire support missions.
The Air Commando Training Squadron (L’escadron de Formation des Commandos de L’air, EFCA) in Dijon provides initial training and refresher training for the entire staff of the Air Force (commanders, non-commissioned officers and Military air technicians). Acting on a broad spectrum, EFCA is also involved in preparing air force personnel for external operations (MARTEL training). It also welcomes trainees from the army, navy, gendarmerie and even civil security.
2.5 1/67 “Pyrénées” Helicopter Squadron
1/67 “Pyrénées” Helicopter Squadron (l’escadron d’hélicoptères 1/67 “Pyrénées”) is the newest air unit to join the Air Force’s SOF community (MOD, 2016c).
The unit performs combat search and rescue missions (RESCO), as well as missions for COS (French Special Operations Command).
PART THREE: MISCELLANEOUS
3.0 Useful Links
- French Special Operations Command: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/ema/interarmees/le-commandement-des-operations-speciales.
- COS Special Operations Command (unofficial): http://le.cos.free.fr/cos.htm.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/French-Army-Special-Forces-Brigade/141543042538854.
- Air Parachutist Commandos: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/activites/unites-au-sol/les-fusiliers-commandos/les-commandos-parachutistes-de-l-air-cpa.
Defense House (2016) Maj. Gen. de Saint-Quentin, French Special Operations Command. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense-house.com/interesting-post/maj-gen-de-saint-quentin-french-special-operations-command/. [Accessed: 15 December, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2015) Le Major Général Visite le Commandement des Forces Aériennes. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/actus-air/le-major-general-visite-le-commandement-des-forces-aeriennes. [Accessed: 18 December, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2016a) L’armée de L’air Engagée dans «Gorgones», Exercice des Forces Spéciales. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/actus-air/l-armee-de-l-air-engagee-dans-gorgones-exercice-des-forces-speciales. [Accessed: 18 December, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2016b) COS: Presentation. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/ema/interarmees/le-commandement-des-operations-speciales/le-cos-presentation. [Accessed: 12 December, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2016c) «Cobalt»: Les Forces Spéciales S’entraînent à Cazaux. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/actus-air/cobalt-les-forces-speciales-s-entrainent-a-cazaux. [Accessed: 18 December, 2016].
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2016d) Hommage au sergent-chef Guarato sur la base aérienne de Ramstein. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/air/actus-air/hommage-au-sergent-chef-guarato-sur-la-base-aerienne-de-ramstein. [Accessed: 18 December, 2016].