France mission Henri Brown 3 640AAE mission Henri Brown

On 10 August 2022, three Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE, French Air and Space Force) Dassault Rafale B, accompanied by two Airbus A330MRTT Phoenix tankers and two Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft left mainland France as part of the Henri Brown mission and reached New Caledonia in the Indo-Pacific region in seventy-two hours.

This Henri Brown mission is the first part of the Pegasus 2022 projection in the Indo-Pacific region. During this journey, which is 18,000 kilometres from mainland Fance, the three Rafales had to make two stop-overs, one in India and another one in Darwin (Australia). Due to some unspecified logistical constraints, the second stop-over took a little longer than expected.

The mission to New Caledonia is the most extended projection of AAE combat aircraft after that of three Rafales sent to French Polynesia during the Heifara Wakea operation. In total 160 personnel, including a dozen fighter pilots, participate in this mission. Scramble Magazine reported on the mission in June and July 2021.

The air detachment arrived in New Caledonia on Saturday 13 August and will leave as planned on Wednesday 17 August to continue its mission and participate in the Pitch Black exercise in Australia.

During their stay in New Caledonia several A400M parachute drops and Rafale overflights are planned around the Koumac airfield. The Rafale actions are controlled from the war room of the Capco (Air Center for Planning and Conduct of Operations) and transmits from the Lyon Mont-Verdun air base. The (fictitious) engagement order to the three Rafale to destroy surface-to-surface missiles spotted in the Pacific Ocean is sent by secure link. The Rafales will acknowledge the receipt of the order in less than 40 seconds. Twenty minutes later, a Scalp cruise missile is fictitiously launched. The strike is scheduled for the time of passage of a French satellite to perform an accurate Battle Damage Assessment.

The New Caledonia mission is baptised after Henri Brown, a Caledonian-born World War II paratrooper. In 1943, at only 19 years old, Henri Brown enlisted in the air force of Free France and trained as a parachutist in Scotland before taking part in multiple operations.

Starting on 19 August 2022, the Rafales will participate in the Black Pitch exercise. This exercise will host up to 2,500 personnel and up to 100 aircraft from around the globe, including participants from Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Japan, Republic of Korea, UK and the US. Other countries like Philippines, Thailand, UAE, Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia and New Zealand will send observers. Significantly, Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea will be participating fully for the first time.

The Indian Air Force reported on Twitter that a French Air & Space Force contingent staged through an Sulur Air Force Station (India) on their way to the Pitch Black 2022 exercsie in Australia.

Photos by the Julien Fechter / Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace

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