NEWS | July 8, 2021

Hawaiian Raptors, French Air Force advance interoperability

By Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz, 154th Wing Public Affairs - Hawaii Air National Guard

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam completed international air combat training July 5, with several training sorties focused on interoperability with the French Air Force.

From June 27 to July 5, three French Air Force Rafales, two A400M Atlas, one A330 Phenix, and approximately 170 French Air and Space Force (FASF) personnel made Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam their temporary roost. All part of Exercise Wakea - a Pacific Air Forces and French demonstration of the U.S. and French Air Force's partnership and commitment in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.

Part of Wakea involved Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors training with FASF aircraft to enhance air combat expertise and increase the interoperability between the two countries' aircraft.

"Wakea provided our F-22 pilots with a unique opportunity to integrate and train with allied partners," said Lt. Col. Anthony Davis, 154th Operations Group deputy commander. "Our location in the Pacific doesn't lend itself to routinely training with French forces, so it will likely prove to be invaluable to future operations and interoperability."

For the Rafale, this was the first time the FASF's primary fighter aircraft had graced Hawaiian airspace. The deployment was part of France's effort to reaffirm its place as a stabilizing presence in the Pacific.

France's air force and navy began using the Rafales in 2001. The highly versatile twin-engine fighters can execute a multitude of mission sets, from alert and air defense, ground support and reconnaissance. The Hawaiian Raptors and Rafales demonstrated they could "play nicely" in the realm of fighter synchronization.

While air combat synchronization was one of the primary focuses during Wakea, on-the-ground subject matter experts from both nations exchanged best practices for flight ops, training, maintenance and medical operations.

"It really was a well-rounded effort," Anthony said. "It's safe to say we learned a lot from them, and they learned a lot from us. Both maintenance and ops benefited from this experience."

Wakea was a perfect illustration of French cooperation with American Armed Forces, showcasing the quality of the existing relationships as the U.S. continues to accelerate synchronization with allies.

As fighter operations rely on aerial refueling to sustain sortie time, key Hawaii ANG personnel were invited to fly in an A330 Phenix to observe how the FASF execute aerial refueling.

Brig. Gen. Dann S. Carlson, 154th Wing commander and Raptor pilot, hosted a contingent of high-ranking FASF officials for a tour of Raptor ops and maintenance - part of many French interactions with various U.S. military service components' leadership in Hawaii.

According to a U.S. Navy news release, Adm. Samuel Paparo, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, met with two top French military officials visiting Hawaii to discuss the French military's posture in the region.

"It was definitely an eye-opening experience for everyone involved," Anthony said. "If we're able to continue periodically training with the French, we'll likely look back at this past week as the successful start of it all."