Approximately 20 French air force aircrews, 60 maintainers and
support personnel and four Rafale aircraft visited Luke Air Force
Base to participate in an exercise July 28 to Aug. 8.
The major coalition exercise here provided a unique opportunity
for the French Rafale pilots and Luke's F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots
to familiarize themselves with combined operations. Pilots from
both countries took advantage of the opportunity to fly in an
aircraft they were not accustomed to operating, and they got to see
first-hand the capabilities of the other country's aircraft.
"It was an amazing opportunity," said Capt. Matt Spears, an F-16
pilot with the 309th Fighter Squadron here. "I was impressed with
the capabilities of the aircraft."
The Rafale is a twin-engine aircraft capable of carrying out a
wide range of short- and long-range missions, including ground and
sea attack, air defense and reconnaissance. The F-16 is a
single-engine, compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly
maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and
air-to-surface attack. The F-16 also has the ability to fly more
than 500 miles deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend
itself against enemy aircraft and return to its starting point.
The U.S. and French air force partnership is not limited to
aircraft exercises, but also the entire spectrum of interoperable
maintenance and proficiency training, logistics and sustainment of
The maintainers and support crews also had the chance to
interact with the other country's aircraft and crews. French
support personnel received a tour of Luke's engine shop during
French military have been fighting alongside American forces in
Afghanistan since October 2001 and continue to play a supportive
"Every U.S. and French Airman who took part in this deployment
is better for the experience", said Col. Kurt Neubauer, 56th
Fighter Wing commander. "Training with the French air force
provided us the invaluable opportunity to learn from each other's
operational experience, improve our combat skills and strengthen
the bond of friendship between our great air forces and our great
"The French visit provided an excellent opportunity to
strengthen our social relationship and enhance future relations,"
said Lt. Col. Peter Bilodeau, 309th Fighter Squadron commander.
"There should be as many combined operations as possible before
there are lessons learned in combat."
The French airmen shared the same view of working and training
together and reiterated the fact that France has been a long time
ally of the U.S.
"The cooperation between France and the U.S. goes all the way
back to World War I," said Col. Philippe Poireault, French air
force detachment commander. "This was an extraordinary opportunity
for both the French and U.S. to learn from each other, and we look
forward to strengthening that relationship." (ANN Salutes Justin
Oakes, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, for the story)