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Copyright (C) Diego Crotti

The French Air Force (French: Armée de l'Air (ALA), literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933. The French Air Force operates 635 aircraft, making it the fourth largest air force in terms of aircraft in NATO, and the second largest in the EU after the Royal Air Force.Main articles: History of the Armée de l'Air (1909–1942), Free French Air Force, Vichy French Air Force, and History of the Armée de l'Air (colonial presence 1939–1962)The French took active interest in developing the air force from 1909 and had the first WWI fighter pilots. During the interwar years, however, particularly in the 1930s, the quality fell after they compared with the Luftwaffe, which crushed the French during the Battle of France.In the post–WWII era, the French made a successful effort to develop a domestic aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way with delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the Mirage series of jet fighters. The Mirage demonstrated its abilities in the Six-Day War and the Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular jet fighters of its day, with a high quantity of sales. The French Air Force participated in several protracted colonial wars in Africa and Indochina after WWII, and continues to employ its air power in African peacekeeping. During the 1960s, France pursued a policy of nuclear armament, to deter Soviet aggression. The Dassault Mirage IV, the principal French strategic bomber, was designed to strike Soviet positions as part of the French nuclear triad.Currently, the French Air Force is expanding and replacing aircraft inventory. The French are awaiting the A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in developmental stages, and the integration of the new Rafale multi-role jet fighter, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier.After an absence lasting several decades, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that France will rejoin the NATO integrated command. France has also been a lead nation, alongside the USA, Great Britain and Italy in implementing the UN sponsored no-fly zone in Libya, deploying 20 fighter aircraft to Benghazi in defense of rebel held positions and the civilian population.

Copyright (C) Diego Crotti

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