The Royal Air Force (RAF) and French air force have jointly deployed a group of fighters, tankers and transports to the Asia-Pacific region.

The air forces of the two countries are in the midst of an exercise labelled Griffin Strike by the UK, which sees an RAF Airbus Defence & Space A330 Voyager Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and six Eurofighter Typhoons team up with two French A330 Phenix tankers, two French A400Ms, and three Dassault Aviation Rafales.

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Source: French air force

An RAF Typhoon receives fuel from a French A330 MRTT

The Griffin Strike mission is a subset of France’s Pegase 2024 exercise, which like previous iterations of Pegase sees fighters, tankers and transports dispatched to the Asia-Pacific. This year marks the first time that the French air force has worked with allies on the long-range deployment.

“We are trying to give a concrete example of how the combined joint expeditionary force is able to work with allies such as the British,” says French air force Brigadier General Guillaume Thomas.

Thomas made the remarks in Singapore, where the first element of the Griffin Strike mission – comprising a French A330 Phenix and A400M, and three RAF Typhoons – was making its second stopover on the mission, after a first in the United Arab Emirates.

Thomas says that while France and other NATO allies regularly practice interoperability in Europe, it is far less common to work together on such a long-range intercontinental deployment.

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Source: French air force

During Griffin Strike, RAF personnel fly aboard French tanker and transport aircraft

Simultaneous to Griffin Strike, the French air force is conducting the Pacific Skies mission, which sees French A330s, A400Ms and Rafales being flown to the Asia-Pacific region via Canada and Alaska. This effort is being conducted with Eurofighters from two other NATO allies: Germany and Spain.

The ultimate objective of both missions is Darwin, Australia, where the biennial Pitch Black air combat exercise is due to be held this month.

RAF Group Captain Pete Thorbjornsen says that a key element is testing command and control from a joint headquarters in Lyon at the extreme ranges involved in the mission.

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Source: French air force

A Royal Air Force Typhoon alongside a French A330 Phenix tanker

“We haven’t done that before,” he says. “That then links back to the UK, but it’s controlled by UK and French officers in Lyon.”

Considerable preparation went into the mission, says Thorbjornsen, given that there significant differences in procedures between the two air forces.

He gives a hypothetical scenario of a fighter having an inflight issue during the deployment.

“What do you expect the tanker to do? What if you’re abeam India and the Indians aren’t expecting you? Do you divert one aircraft? Do you divert a pair? Does the MRTT follow? Or do you use the A400M support aircraft to follow? Trying to understand how each other operates and reacts to events was essential before actually conducting [the mission] over the past week.”