The French Air Force changes its name and logo
September 11, 2020 marks a symbolic turning point for the French Air Force, which unveils its new identity as an Air and Space Army, in accordance with the announcements made by Emmanuel Macron and Florence Parly during the summer of 2019. Airmen take precedence over land and sea for the constitution and implementation of military space assets, including observation satellites, in a context of growing international tensions. Russia, China and India have in recent years made hostile demonstrations of their capabilities to spy or destroy satellites, while the United States and more recently China have put small experimental spacecraft into orbit.
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The goal of the French government is to concentrate the expertise and resources devoted to space within a single army, the French Air Force, which is integrating the new Space Command (CDE) based in Paris and soon also in Toulouse, to be closer to its partner, the Centre national d’études spatiales (Cnes). The CDE had only 220 people at the end of 2019, but the goal is to reach 470 people by 2025. The whole project was entrusted to General Michel Friedling, who was already at the head of the former structure, the Joint Space Command. Like the commander of the strategic air forces or the commander of air defense and air operations, the space commander reports to the chief of the air staff and the chief of the armed forces staff.
A new logo
This structural transformation is accompanied by a change of name and logo. Present in traditions since 1922, the hawk now flies over a curve that evokes the globe. The name of the Air Force is lengthened to add, in a more discreet font, the words “and space”. A surprising choice: space, a crucial field of action that increasingly determines the success of operations, including on the ground, would not be as important as air.
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The Space Command mission will also be to detect and monitor objects in orbit around the Earth. It also integrates the Cosmos, the space surveillance center of Lyon-Mont Verdun (read our report À la recherche des satellites espions). To maintain its freedom of action, France wants to know what is going on above our heads at all times, without having to rely on the fragmented information transmitted by other spacefaring nations, including allies. The challenge is also to locate the tens of thousands of pieces of debris that threaten operational satellites.