France Deploys Rafales To Tahiti In Indo-Pacific Air Power Demo

Credit: Dassault

France has deployed fighters to the Pacific island of Tahiti for the first time as part of a demonstration of French air power in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Three Dassault Rafales supported by two Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTT) and two Airbus A400M airlifters arrived at Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport after a 39-hr., 8-min. flight that included a single stop at Travis AFB, California. 

The Heifara-Wakea mission is testing a new power projection capability being provided by the introduction of the MRTT aircraft that will allow France to protect even its most distant territories. It also paves the way for the French Air Force to demonstrate the deployment of 20 Rafales over a distance of 20,000 km (12,427.4 mi.) in 2023. The Rafales were refueled 12 times in flight and were also charged with flying a simulated cruise missile strike mission before their arrival on the island. Further training flights will be conducted by the Rafales during their stay on the French Polynesian island. 

French Air Force commander Gen. Phillippe Lavigne told the French Air Force’s European Intervention Initiative Conference on June 22 that the mission had demonstrated that “France could protect its citizens on its most distant territories and do that in such quick time.”  

On their way back, the Rafales and their support aircraft will visit Hawaii for exercises with the U.S. Pacific Air Force’s F-22 Raptors. The aircraft will also stop at Langley AFB, Virginia, where the detachment will mark the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown.  

The Rafales are due back in France on July 9. 


Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.