Bastille Parade Over Paris

Text and photography by Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye
Every year on July 14, the National Military Parade (‘défilé’) is held in Paris; to commemorate the beginning of the French Revolution.
E-3F AWACS with two Mirage 2000s - Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace
On July 14, 1789, the Bastille prison was raided by the people of Paris, an event that started the French Revolution. A military parade is held on the grounds of Champs Elysees with foot soldiers, trucks, and tanks; while overhead, aircraft and helicopters make a flyby in the air parade (‘défilé aérien’).

This year's theme was the 25th anniversary of the Indian-French military cooperation, with many aircraft and helicopters cooperating together over Paris.
Alphajets of the Patrouille de France - Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was treated to one of France's most spectacular accolades on Friday as the guest of honour at the 2023 Bastille Day military parade, part of a visit that has sealed high-profile defence deals. The Prime Minister stood next to the French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

In 2015, a contract was announced to deliver 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, and in 2019 the first aircraft were delivered. During the visit to France, another order for 26 naval Dassault Rafale M aircraft for the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (R 11) was announced.

For this special occasion, four Indian Rafales were flown to BA Évreux (northwest of Paris) to participate in the Bastille Parade over Paris on the 14th of July.
Rafale formation - Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace
Flight over Paris in a CASA-235

After visiting BA Évreux for many years during the take-off of the fighters, in 2023 we had the opportunity to fly over Paris in a CASA-235 of ‘Escadron de Transport 3/62 “Ventoux” (ET 3/62)’. During the weeks before the 14th of July, the section leads exercised the Bastille Parade over BA Orleans. And a few days before the 14th, a general rehearsal was performed over Paris.
C-130J - Joris van Boven
About an hour before the start of the Bastille Parade, all aircraft were allocated separate ‘racetracks’ or ‘hippodromes’ around Paris, where each group circled in formation until it was their turn to head toward Paris. As the section leads participated in the rehearsal, the rest of the formation just had to ‘follow the leader’.
C-130J and CN-235 - Joris van Boven
The CASA-235 of the photoflight was part of the “Force projection” group and consisted of one Airbus A330, one C-130J, two CASA-235 and one A400M, most flying with the CUJAS callsign:
CN-235 - Joris van Boven
The assigned racetrack was near the city of Beynes, some 30 kilometres west of Paris. For an hour, the racetrack was flown to align with all other racetracks around Paris. At the correct moment, the “Force projection” group flew eastbound, over the suburb ‘La Defense’ with its futuristic skyscrapers, along the Eiffel Tower, over the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, then towards eastern Paris.

There, the formation broke up and the C-130, followed by the two CASA-235, set up some formations for the photographers onboard, in order to take photos from the open ramp.

After the photoshoot, the three aircraft landed at their home base in Évreux.
The crew onboard of the CASA-235 consisted of Adjudant Xavier, Commandant Sandrine, and Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine.
Adjudant Xavier, Commandant Sandrine and Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine - Joris van Boven

The CUJAS callsign of the transport aircraft is a reference to French legal expert Jacques Cujas (1522–1590), who was born in Toulouse, France. Originally, the French Air Force transport training unit (Centre d'Instruction des Equipages de Transport, CIET) was created in 1946 at the Toulouse Francazal Airbase. And over the years, the CUJAS callsign was used to honour the work of Jacques Cujas on human rights. These days, the CIET is operating from the Orleans airbase and the CUJAS callsigns are still used by French transport aircraft.
A Rafale leads four Mirage 2000s - Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace

The Indian Rafale aircraft and personnel at BA Évreu, mainly consisted of IAF's No. 101 Squadron "Falcons" based at Jalpaguiri/Hashimara Air Force Station (AFS) in the States of West Bengal and the Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE). The latter is India's Air Force test unit and has its homebase at Bangalore/Yelahanka AFS.

Opening of the parade:
9 Alphajets (Patrouille de France Aerobatic Team), in a formation called Big Nine.

25 years of strategic partnership between France and India:
3 Rafale Cs (Indian Air Force)
1 Rafale C (30th Fighter Squadron)

90 years of the Military Aeronautical Expertise Center (CEMA):
1 Rafale C (Fighter and Experimentation Squadron)
2 Mirage 2000 Ds (1/30 “Côte d’Argent” Fighter Squadron)

Airspace protection:
1 E-3F AWACS (36th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron “Berry”)
2 Mirage 2000-5s (1/2 “Cigognes” Fighter Squadron)
1 Rafale C (30th Fighter Squadron)
1 Rafale B (4th Fighter Squadron)

NATO Enhanced Air Policing:
1 Rafale C (30th Fighter Squadron)
1 Typhoon (Royal Air Force)
1 Rafale B (4th Fighter Squadron)
1 Mirage 2000-5 (1/2 “Cigognes” Fighter Squadron)
2 F-16s (Belgian Air Force)

Defense of vital and strategic interests:
1 A330 MRTT Phénix (1/31 “Bretagne” Air Refueling and Strategic Transport Squadron)
3 Rafale Bs (4th Fighter Squadron)

Force projection:
1 C-130J (Binational Air Transport Squadron)
1 A330-200 (Estérel)
2 CN-235 CASA (64th Squadron)
1 A400M Atlas (61st Transport Squadron)

1 C-135 (4/31 Air Refueling Squadron “Sologne”)
1 Rafale C (30th Fighter Squadron)
4 Mirage 2000 Ds (3rd Fighter Squadron)

Carrier Air Group:
1 E-2C Hawkeye (4F Squadron)
8 Rafale Ms (17F Squadron)
1 DA 10 (575 Squadron)

Maritime patrol aircraft – Operation NARCOPS:
1 Falcon 50 M (24F Squadron)
2 ATL 2s (21F and 23F Squadrons)

Reconnaissance / Anticipation:
1 ALSR Vador (64th Transport Squadron)

3 PC-21s (Fighter Aviation School)
4 Xingus (Fighter Aviation School)

1 Dash 8 (Civil Security)

Competition and excellence:
2 Extra 330s (French Air and Space Aerobatic Team)

National Gendarmerie Air Force:
2 AS 350 (Écureuil), 2 EC135, and 2 EC145 helicopters.

Army Light Aviation School:
2 Calliope H120s and 2 Fennecs.

Major operation:
1 Gazelle, 3 Tigers, 1 Puma, 1 Cougar, and 3 Caimans.

Army Light Aviation 2030:
1 Airbus Helicopters H160 (Guépard).

Operations on the national territory:
1 Puma, 1 light combat Fennec, 1 Fennec with a sniper, and 1 H160.

Mastering the air and sea spaces, naval combat, and rescue at sea:
1 NH90 Caiman Marine, 1 NH90 Caiman (Italian Navy) 1 Dauphin, and 1 Dauphin Pedro
Airbus A400M - Joris van Boven