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French Army Light Aviation
Aviation légère de l'armée de terre
Insigne de l'ALAT.jpg
Active 22 November 1954 – present
Country France
Type Army aviation
Size 346 aircraft
Part of French Army

The French Army Light Aviation (French language: Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre, ALAT, literally Light Aviation of the Land Army) is the Army aviation service of the French Army. ALAT was established on 22 November 1954 for observation, reconnaissance, assault and supply duties.


Since its creation in 1954, it has participated in almost all French military engagements and humanitaire aid deployments : the French Indochina War, the Algerian War, the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, the Lebanese conflict, the war in Chad, the independence of Djibouti, the War in Somaliadisambiguation needed, operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Kosovo War, the Indoneisan occupation of East Timor, the Operation Licornedisambiguation needed in Cote d'Ivoire, the humanitarian response to the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the War in Afghanistan,[1] 2011 military intervention in Libya.

However, the concept of aerial artillery support is much older: military aviation, which appeared very early in the First World War, and its role was only observation, and subsequent guidance of artillery. The first highlight of this new weapon, whose contribution may have been decisive, took place on 3 September 1914, when squadron REP 15 observation airplanes, attached to the Sixth Army under Maunoury), realized that "the columns of Kluck spin to the south-east [... ]. There can be no question of a serious attack to Paris. "The hope was reborn in the French camp, reinforced by consistent reports of the British Expeditionary Force aircraft. In the hours following, airmen meticulously locate the different Imperial German Army corps. A gap formed between the First Army (Von Kluck) and Second Army (von Bülow). Reports were submitted to Joffre, who decides to take without further delay of this possibility. On 6 September 1914, the First Battle of the Marne began, and the German advance was cut short.

The use of armed helicopters coupled with helicopter transport during the Algerian War can drop troops into enemy territory gave birth to the tactics of airmobile warfare continues today.[2] The machines of the nascent ALAT were the ones to carry out a considerable number of missions against Algerian insurgents between 1955, when the Groupe d’Hélicoptères No.2 (GH 2) was created, and 1962 when the French empire in Algeria finally came to an end. GH 2 was based at Sétif - Aïn Arnat in the east of the country, and it was equipped primarily with machines to undertake transport missions, though the Vertol H-21C, nicknamed the Banane volante (“Flying Banana”) because of its silhouette, would soon join the unit owing to concerns about the lack of machines which could both defend themselves and carry out offensive missions against the insurgents. Acquiring these machines lay in the hands of the licensee Piasecki given France’s urgent need to have them on account of the circumstances. Usually, the H-21 could carry up to 18 troops, yet local operating (as well as climatic) conditions decreed that the French army examples could carry only up to around 12 troops each. In two years, GH 2 received the vast majority of the H-21s acquired by ALAT, which consisted of five squadrons by the end of 1958. A sixth squadron from the French naval air arm, the Aéronautique navale, had operated with GH 2 for little more than a year.

From 1955 to 1962, GH 2 took part in the major battles, which occurred near the frontier between Algeria and Tunisia, including the battle of Souk-Ahras in April 1958. The helicopters, including types such as the H-21, the Alouette II, the Sikorsky H-19 and Sikorsky H-34, together aggregated over 190,000 flying hours in Algeria (over 87,000 for the H-21 alone) and helped to evacuate over 20,000 French combatants from the combat area, including nearly 2,200 at night. By the time the war in Algeria had ended, eight officers and 23 non-commissioned officers from ALAT had given their lives in the course of their duties.

After the American experiments coupling attack helicopters with anti-tank missiles during the last phases of the Vietnam War, and during NATO maneuvers, the ALAT worked to create specialized units in this area to fight against the threat of armoured Warsaw Pact assaults.

In 1975, ALT had 500 officer s, 2500 NCOs and 3500 other ranks, or 2% of the French Army. Quantitatively, its fleet is one hundred aircraft, Cessna L-19 gradually retired and replaced by helicopters and 560 helicopters (190 Alouette II, 70 Alouette III, 130 SA.330 Puma and 170 SA.341 Gazelle plus 110 SA.341 to deliver.

Qualitatively, after delivery of orders, there are 360 light helicopters including 170 Gazelle reconnaissance helicopters 180 anti-tank which 110 Gazelle HOT (these missiles entering service until 1978 ) and 140 utility helicopters Puma. ALAT flew 170,000 flying hours, including 11,000 at night.[3]


Gazelle and Puma in 2010

French Army Light Aviation Eurocopter Cougar in Afghanistan

ALAT is currently suffering from aging equipment and inadequate training of its crews, which has caused various incidents. According to a report of the National Assembly of 2007[4] 'the potential of the primary aircraft has in fact decreased sharply since 2004, with the decline to accelerate in 2008. In 2005, however, the ALAT has after a long wait his first Eurocopter EC665 Tiger, which are the first helicopter specifically designed for combat and developed in France, and including all 80 copies have been ordered to date to replace cannon and Mistral-armed SA341 Gazelles. Delivery of 80 aircraft is expected to be completed in 2020.[5] On April 15, 2011, 30 helicopters were delivered to the ALAT, including 16 combat capable.[6]

Army Light Aviation Command (COMALAT)

The 4th Airmobile Brigade (4e Brigade Aéromobile) had most of the ALAT's strength until it was disestablished in 2010. The three line regiments now report directly to Land Forces Command.

1st Combat Helicopter Regiment

The 1st Combat Helicopter Regiment (1er Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat) (1er RHC) is based in Phalsbourg with 22 Gazelle, 20 Puma and 14 Cougar.[7] The 1st Combat Helicopter Regiment was created on 1 August 1977, but traces its origins back to the 1950s. It carries the traditions of the 1st then the 21st Artillery Observation Groups which achieved particular fame during the First Indochina War, winning six citations. The 1st Aerial Artillery Observation Group was established on 20 novembre 1945, and became the 21st Aerial Artillery Observation Group on 1 October 1950. From 1945 to February 1946 it was stationed at Camp de Valdahon. It was dissolved on 31 December 1953.[8] That heritage is recalled by the inscription "Indochina 1946-1954" carried on the standard which was solemnly presented to the regiment on 27 June 1980. Camp de la Horie at Phalsbourg where the regiment is stationed was built on the basis of the former Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base, vacated in the 1960s by the United States Air Force. The base was constructed by French workers for the Americans in 1953. Cited in an army order, the régiment received the Croix de guerre des Théâtres d'opérations extérieures with palm on 11 July 1991. It has been awarded battle honours for Kuwait.[9] In 1990 the 1st RHC took part in Opération Daguet in Iraq. It has also seen service in Chad, in Djibouti, en Somalie, in the former Yugoslavia, au Kosovo, au Timor, en Côte d'Ivoire et en Afghanistan. The regimental motto is PRIMUS PRIMORUM (Le premier parmi les premiers).

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Colonels of the 1st RHC:

Chef de Corps Date
Colonel Baffeleuf Georges 1 August 1977 - 24 August 1978
Lieutenant-colonel Martini André 25 August 1978 - 23 June 1981
Lieutenant-colonel Pfister Alain 24 June 1981 - 15 November 1981 (+)
Chef de bataillon Durand François 16 November 1981 - 11 January 1982
Lieutenant-colonel Archambeaud Hugues 12 January 1982 - 21 June 1984
Lieutenant-colonel Morvan Marcel 22 June 1984 - 25 June 1986
Lieutenant-colonel Davout d'Auerstaedt Armel 26 June 1986 - 29 June 1988
Lieutenant-colonel Massou Michel 30 June 1988 - 28 June 1990
Lieutenant-colonel Hotier Jean-Luc 29 June 1990 - 25 June 1992
Lieutenant-colonel Le Neven Roch 26 June 1992 - 30 June 1994
Lieutenant-colonel Foudriat Michel 1 July 1994 - 30 June 1996
Lieutenant-colonel Tanguy Patrick 1 July 1996 - 30 June 1998
Lieutenant-colonel Brastel Hugues 1 July 1998 - 30 June 2000
Lieutenant-colonel Lefebvre Patrick 1 July 2000 - 25 June 2002
Lieutenant-colonel Guichard Pascal 26 June 2002 - 30 June 2004
Lieutenant-colonel Grintchenko Michel 1 July 2004 - 30 June 2006
Lieutenant-colonel Auriault Hervé 1 July 2006 - 31 July 2008
Colonel Bayle Alain 1 August 2008 - 31 May 2010
Colonel De Laforcade Thibault 1 June 2010 -

3rd Combat Helicopter Regiment

The 3rd Combat Helicopter Regiment (3e Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat) (3e RHC) is located in Étain with 33 Gazelle, 16 Puma.[10] The regiment was created on 1 August 1977. It is located on the Étain-Rouvres Air Base, formerly known as the USAFE Étain-Rouvres Air Base. The regiment is heir by descent of the Aviation Platoon of the 9th Colonial Infantry Division, later transformed into the 3rd, then 23rd Aerial Artillery Observation Group (GAOA). On 3rd RHC's banner inscribed "Indochina 1947-1954", the colors of the ribbon of the Médaille militaire, with the olive-colored ribbon of the Military Cross for overseas operations and six citations.[11] The 23rd GAOA totalled 34,500 flight hours.

Today the regiment consists of 11 squadrons:

  • A squadron of attack helicopters.
  • A squadron of reconnaissance helicopters.
  • 2 helicopter squadrons support-protection.
  • A Maintenance Flight helicopters (Gazelle).
  • Two squadrons of helicopters to maneuver.
  • A squadron maintenance of utility helicopters (Puma).
  • A squadron command and logistics
  • A squadron of administration and support.
  • A flight control and refueling.

Other regiments

Other now dissolved regiments include the 2nd Combat Helicopter Regiment, the 6th Combat Helicopter Regiment, the 7th Combat Helicopter Regiment and the 4th Combat and Airmobile Helicopter Regiment.


  1. Jean-Dominique Merchet (5 June 2009). "Renforts en Afghanistan : la France va envoyer trois Tigres et deux Cougars (actualisé)". Libération. Retrieved 5 June 2009.  (French)
  2. helicopters during the war in Algeria, Military History
  3. General Andrè Martini (2005). The history of light aircraft of the Army from 1794 to 2004. Paris. p. 252. ISBN 2-7025-1277-1. 
  4. Notice of the National Assembly (number 280, Volume IV of the Finance Bill 2008 of 11 October 2007) ( P781_51984)
  5. "White Paper on Defence and national Security," Volume 1, Part 2, p. 224.
  6. Jean-Marc Tanguy (27 April 2009). "17 tiger opexables delivered on 30". the Mamouty. Retrieved 11 March 2009. 
  7. French Army, 1st Combat Helicopter Regiment
  8. 1° Groupe aérien d'observation d'artillerie - 1st GAOA - 21st GAOA. Mis sur pied au camp de Valdahon le 20 novembre 1945, embarque à Marseille le 1 Décember on the "Boissevin" . It arrived at Saïgon on 18 December. Devant faire mouvement sur le Tonkin, a détachement est embarqué au Cap-Saint-Jacques, on the French aircraft carrier Béarn and arrived en baie d'Along on 7 March 1946. Le 10, le détachement s'installe à Cat Bi, l'aérodrome d'Haiphong, et perçoit son premier Morane 500. Au 1 May la situation du 1st GAOA was as follows: the 1st escadrille was stationed à Tourane with four Morane, the 2nd escadrille à Seno avec quatre Morane, and the 3rd escadrille at Haiphong with four Morane. Cette dernière s'installe à Hanoï. Les effets du décret du 3 mars 1952, créant officiellement l'ALOA.
  9. Koweït 1990-1991"Edition Chronologique n° 45 du 29 octobre 2010".Le Ministère de la Défense instruction n°1515/DEF/EMA/OL/2 du 23 septembre 1983, modifiée, sur les filiations et l'héritage des traditions des unités; décision n°010318/DEF/CAB/SDBG/CPAG du 15 juillet 2008 portant création d'une commission des emblèmes. Art. 1. L'incription "Koweït 1990-1991" est attribuée aux flags et standards formations des armées énumérated below. 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment, 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment, 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment, 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, 11th Marine Artillery Regiment, 4th Régiment de dragon, 1st Régiment de Spahis, 6th Command and Support Régiment, 1st R.H.C, 3rd R.H.C, as well as formations of the French Air Force (5th, 7th, 11th de Chasse, 11th Reconnaissance, 61e, 62e de Transport). Le présent arrêté sera publié au bulletin officiel des armées, Hervé Morin.
  10. "3e regiment d helicopteres de combat" (in French). 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  11. by decision of 18 June 1955.
  12. "5e regiment d helicopteres de combat" (in French). 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 

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