Rafale planes fly with foreign pilots, while French pilots lack flight hours
French lawmaker Frank Giletti prepared a report on behalf of the Committee to discuss the challenges that French Air Force pilots face. The report states on page 24 that NATO expects each fighter pilot to fly at least 180 hours annually. French pilots will fly 162 hours in 2022 and even less in 2023. They will fly 147 hours in 2023. The pilots flew 152 hours in 2020 and 159 hours in 2019.
France has withdrawn six aircraft from flights to deliver to Greece. The serial production line works for Croatia, on the other hand. France tried to get a Mirage aircraft from the Qatari Air Force but was lost to Indonesia. The second-hand Mirage would be an interim solution for training purposes.
Apart from fighter pilots, pilots for general-purpose aircraft suffer from the same lack of experience. According to NATO, they are expected to fly 320 hours annually. They will fly 208 hours in 2022 and 189 hours in 2023. France has A400M and C-130H transport aircraft.
The report states, “this situation results partly from the sale-export of Rafales to Croatia, which limits the number of cells available and the production capacity of flight hours, and on the other hand technical hazards on fleets (C130H) or in ramp-up (A400M).”