Nice paint job, monsieur
Hugo Mambour & Eric Bannwarth from AviaScribe depict some of the delights of the French military scene in 2001.
The application of special paint schemes on military aircraft to celebrate particular events has become a popular activity in many European air forces. France was no exception in 2001.
Mirage IIIE n°572 was inaugurated at BA.116 Luxeuil on 30 June 2001 to celebrate the 85th anniversary of EC 2/4 'La Fayette' squadron. The Mirage IIIE flew no less than 85,000 hours with the unit for more than 20 years between 1966 and 1988, and from 1973 on the unit became a nuclear strike squadron. A public airshow was held the following day on 1 July and Mirage 2000N n°344 of EC 1/4 'Dauphiné' was displayed both on the ground and in the air painted in a special colour scheme to celebrate the 10th anniversary of flight SPA 92 'Lion de Belfort', which constitutes (with SPA 37 'Charognard' and SPA 81 'Lévrier') one of the three flights of EC 1/4.
Another colourful aircraft present at Luxeuil was the last Jaguar E (E12) of CITac.339 'Aquitaine', which was painted to celebrate the withdrawal of that aircraft type from the unit. Originally created as an OCU for the Mirage IIIE of the local EC 4 (4th Fighter Wing), CITac.339 received its first Jaguar in 1967. It is now equipped with three Mystère 20 and seven Alpha Jet Es. The latter have replaced the six Jaguar Es of the unit. The tail of Jaguar E12 was painted in the colours of flight 4B3 'Hibou' on the left side and the second flight 'Bison' of GB 1/25 on the right side.
The last Armée de l'Air unit still equipped with Jaguar is EC 1/7 'Provence', based at St Dizier. Besides the CITac.339, which is attached to the Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (Strategic Air Forces), all the remaining Jaguars of the Force Aérienne de Combat (Combat Air Force) had been consolidated at St Dizier in three squadrons. EC 2/7 'Argonne' and EC 3/7 'Languedoc' were however disbanded together on 8 June 2001 and Jaguar A67 received a special colour scheme for that occasion (the left side illustrated is in EC 2/7 colours). It was flown the next week to the EAA.601 storage centre at Châteaudun.
Finally, EC 1/30 'Alsace' celebrated its 60th anniversary at Colmar airbase on 28 September 2001. Mirage F1CT n°236 was duly painted in squadron markings and was displayed during a private airshow and ceremony where famous WWII French pilots Pierre Clostermann and René Andrieux were attending, among others. A few airworthy historic aircraft, including a Spitfire, were present for the occasion. GC.1 'Alsace' (1st Fighter Group) was created at Rayak in Lebanon on 15 September 1941. It became 341 Squadron of the RAF on 21 January 1943 and was later deployed to Biggin Hill in May with Spitfire Mk IXs. The French AF has continuously maintained the traditions of the 'Alsace' squadron ever since, the name being given to various units. The Mirage F1CTs of EC 1/30 should be withdrawn form service around 2007, and as no replacement aircraft are expected for the moment, it remains to be seen if the traditions of one of the oldest active squadrons of the Armée de l'Air will survive.