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Hawaiian Raptors advance interoperability with French Air Force

A French Air and Space Force F3-R Rafale takes-off at Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, June 29, 2021.

A French Air and Space Force F3-R Rafale takes-off at Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, June 29, 2021. FASF aircraft, maintenance, and support personnel traveled to Hawaii for exercise Wakea as part of the bilateral cooperation in the Pacific between the United States and France. The exercise was held to enhance air-combat expertise and interoperability between the two countries’ aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz)

A Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptor flies in formation with a French Air and Space Force F3-R Rafale June 30, 2021, near Oahu, Hawaii.

A Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptor flies in formation with a French Air and Space Force F3-R Rafale June 30, 2021, near Oahu, Hawaii. 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 personnel visited Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to partner in air integration operations for exercise Wakea - a demonstration of the U.S. and French relationship in the Indo-pacific area of responsibility. During Wakea subject matter experts from both nations exchanged best practices for flight operations, training, and maintenance. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz)

Brig. Gen. Dann S. Carlson, 154th Wing commander, Hawaii Air National Guard and Lt. Gen. Vincent Cousin, commander, Air Defence and Operations Command - French Air and Space Force, observe an A400M Atlas take-off at Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, June 29, 2021.

Brig. Gen. Dann S. Carlson, 154th Wing commander, Hawaii Air National Guard and Lt. Gen. Vincent Cousin, commander, Air Defence and Operations Command - French Air and Space Force, observe an A400M Atlas take-off at Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, June 29, 2021. FASF aircraft, maintenance, and support personnel traveled to Hawaii for exercise Wakea as part of the bilateral cooperation in the Pacific between the United States and France. The exercise was held to enhance air-combat expertise and interoperability between the two countries’ aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz)

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 focusing on interoperability between U.S. and French Air Force combat aircraft.

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, Hawaii, their temporary roost. All part of Exercise Wakea - a PACAF and French co-led 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 ANG 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 the 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 be used to execute a multitude of mission sets; from alert and air-defense, ground support, and reconnaissance. And as the Hawaiian Raptors and Rafales demonstrated, are able to ‘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 regarding 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 benefitted 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 a 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 a myriad of French interactions with the various U.S. military service components leadership personnel based here 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.”