French confirm interest in a “modular” aircraft to replace AlphaJet

24 April 2024

An interesting exchange was published on the French National Assembly website last week. In October last year, Mr Frank Giletti, a member of the National Rally and secretary of the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission, asked the French Minister for the Armed Forces what plans were in place for the replacement of the AlphaJets currently used by the national display team, the Patrouille de France (PAF).

In 2019, General Philippe Lavigne, Chief of the Staff of the Air Force, said that the AlphaJets could remain in operation until 2035, and that ‘reflections were underway regarding the succession of the AlphaJet.’ Mr Giletti’s question sought clarification as to where any plans might have got to. “Is there currently any reflection underway within government or military authorities on this subject?” He asked.

“…in the quest for a worthy successor to the AlphaJet,” he continued, “which aircraft could both honour the heritage of the Patrouille de France and meet modern aviation requirements? And above all, what are the Government’s precise intentions on this subject?”

The response was published last week, and confirmed France’s interest in a modular solution. While it was stated that fighter pilot training on PC-21s is currently giving ‘complete satisfaction’ and won’t be changed until 2040, the statement reads: “It [therefore] appears necessary to back up the mission of the PAF with another mission, that of the operational preparation of the forces, currently carried out by the fighter squadrons on Rafale, Mirage and, to a lesser extent, on AlphaJet within the 3/8 Squadron in Cazaux.

“It will therefore be a question of replacing the AlphaJet, used not only for the PAF but also for certain ‘Red Air’ missions in order to partially relieve front line units of air opposition hours, particularly those which are of less tactical interest.

“Beyond 2032, the sustainability of the PAF is not called into question and all solutions are also possible and studied, in particular with the United Kingdom and Spain.

“These solutions consist of developing or acquiring a modular aircraft meeting both the patrol needs of Red Air, but also a complementary aircraft, in the light of the SCAF (Système de combat aérien du futur, or Future Combat Air System (FCAS)) and its manned vector, the NGF (New Generation Fighter).”

This is, of course, a very encouraging insight. However, while the application of a modular aircraft system like AERALIS will deliver the ‘swing-role’ capability that the French Air Force describes above, there is a wider opportunity – one that will result in even greater cost and logistics savings, while also delivering to March 2023’s joint declaration from France and the United Kingdom to “commit to ensure interoperability of weapons and platforms across Europe and NATO.”

You may recall last September that AERALIS and Babcock France signed a memorandum of understanding under which the two companies are working together to develop flexible solutions to provide different AERALIS aircraft configurations to different international air forces on-demand, as a service – as set out in the AERALIS AERFLEX service model. This includes how such a service could support future flexible and affordable combat air support and training constructs ready for 5th and 6th generation Combat Air; but there is no reason why display team roles could not also be part of this solution.

To see the transcript directly, visit:

NB: quotes from the statement have been translated from their original French.