|French Air Force Rafale is taxiing at Evreux AFB, France, to take part in the flypast over Paris to celebrate Bastille Day 2020.|
Every year on July 14th, the National Military Parade (défilé) is held in the French capital Paris; to commemorate the beginning of the French Revolution. On July 14th 1789, the Bastille prison was raided by the people from Paris, an event that started the French Revolution. A military parade is held on the ground with foot-soldiers, trucks and tanks; while overhead aircraft and helicopters make a flyby overhead Paris in the air parade (‘défilé aérien’).
But in the year 2020, the Corona/COVID pandemic changed everything.
The ground parade was minimized to the Place de la Concorde only and visitors were not allowed, they had to watch the parade via their televisions.
The main topic of the parade was the liberation of France 75 years ago and the 80th anniversary of the birth of the ‘Free French Air Force’ (‘Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres’ (FAFL)) in May 1940
The end of the parade consisted of a number of helicopters from Army (Armée de Terre), Air Force (Armée de l’Air) ,Navy (Marine Nationale) and the Police (Gendarmerie Nationale).
The participants flew from various airbases, sometimes from their homebases (Air Force: C-130, A400M,E-3F, C-135F, A330MRTT, Mirage 2000D, Mirage 2000C; Marine: Rafales, Atlantic, E-2, Falcon 50M), sometimes from airbases close to Paris if fuel was an important factor (BA Evreux, west of Paris for Mirage 2000C and Rafales, local transport aircraft ; BA Villacoublay, south of Paris for Marine and Air Force helicopters; BA Creil, north of Paris for Army helicopters).
In the morning of the 14th at Base Aerienne Evreux (ICAO:LFOE), there was a photo-moment to witness the flight-preparations and take-off of some fighters. The grey and rainy weather did not help to get some nice photos 😠
The participating Rafales (one Rafale with the special decorated tail of EC 2/30 Normandie-Niemen), took off from runway 22 to fly overhead Paris, while the spare aircraft did their flight-preparations but only left BA Evreux after the parade was over.
The participating Mirage 2000C of EC 2/5 Île-de-France taxied to the runway, but take-off was cancelled due to a (too) low cloud ceiling. So they did not show up overhead of Paris.
From BA Evreux, a local C-160 Transall and 2 CN235 flew in the parade and these aircraft returned afterwards. Rumor has it that the five C-160 Transall aircraft will be retired very soon, so this might be one of the last C-160 Transall photos.
The ‘Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres’ (FAFL) or ‘Free French Air Force’ was established on July 08th by General Charles de Gaulle in June 1940 as members of the French Army, Navy and Air Force left France for the United Kingdom.
The original squadrons of the FAFL were:
- Groupe de chasse n°1 Alsace (341 Squadron RAF)
- Groupe de chasse n°2 Île-de-France (340 Squadron RAF)
- Groupe de chasse n°2 Normandie , later Régiment de chasse Normandie-Niémen (Soviet Union)
- Groupe de bombardement Lorraine (342 Squadron RAF)
- Groupe de bombardement Bretagne
One Dassault Rafale of Escadron de Chasse (or Fighter Squadron) 2/30 Normandie-Niemen had a special tail, to commemorate their stay in the Soviet-Union during WW2.
Overhead Paris flew two Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets from 1(F)Sq (1st Fighter Squadron) from RAF Lossiemouth. One of the pilots was a French exchange pilot.
Report by Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye