With the French Air and Space Force conducting Operation Pegase 23 in the Pacific region, France is showcasing its ability to project power over long distances to defend its interests.

On 25 June 2023, a detachment of around 20 aircraft departed from Istres Air Base in southeastern France. After a one-day stopover at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates from where the French military operates, two separate flight groups departed to different destinations.

The first group, comprising six Rafale fighter jets, three A330 Phénix MRTT aerial refueling tankers and two A400M Atlas transport aircraft, arrived at Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore. Meanwhile, the second group, consisting of four Rafale fighters, two A330 MRTT tankers and two A400M aircraft, touched down at Subang Air Base in Malaysia.

“The first challenge of deploying an aerial system of around twenty aircraft, more than 320 aviators, 11,000 kilometers from France, in 30 hours was successfully met,” the French Air and Space Force announced in a statement.

During their stay at partner bases, French crews engaged in joint flights and training exercises with Malaysian Su-30, F-18, and A400M aircraft, as well as Singaporean F-15, F-16, and A330 MRTT aircraft.

For the second phase of the operation, the French detachment in Malaysia returned to their home base while the aircrew deployed to Singapore continued their journey further across the Pacific Ocean.

On the evening of 28 June 2023, 72 hours after their departure from Istres, eleven aircraft of Operation Pegase 23 landed at the United States Air Force’s Andersen Air Base in Guam. From there, six Rafales and their support aircraft are set to take part in joint and combined exercises, including Exercise Northern Edge, alongside US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British and Japanese forces. They should be deployed to Guam until 24 July 2023.

During their deployment, the French aircrew will adhere to the ‘MORANE’ operational concept, which emphasizes minimal logistics and deploying as close as possible to combat zones. This strategy enables them to enhance operational efficiency and responsiveness in a projection situation.

This doctrine should be further tested from 06 July 2023, when part of the detachment, including three Rafales, will be deployed to the Palau archipelago. The Republic of Palau is a small island nation located in the western Pacific Ocean.

With a land area of just 459 square kilometers and a population of less than 20,000 inhabitants, Palau is one of the world’s smallest countries. It lacks a conventional military force and instead relies on the United States for its defense under a ‘compact of free association.’

“This operation marks the third consecutive demonstration of the French Air and Space Force’s ability to deploy the equivalent of a projected air base to the territories of the Pacific Ocean within a limited timeframe,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces stated.

France’s power projection capabilities in the region are of utmost importance, given the presence of several French overseas territories, including French Polynesia and New Caledonia, scattered across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and situated thousands of kilometers away from the mainland. The strategic reach of the French Air and Space Force in the Pacific region, therefore, ensures the protection and well-being of these distant territories.