Four Years for Mimouss

Text and photography by Joris van Boven
On Tuesday, February 20, 2024, the new French Air and Space Force (Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace) Rafale Solo Display (RSD) for the 2024-2025 season was presented: Captain Jean-Brice Millet, with the callsign “Mimouss”.
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The presentation took place at Base Aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson (ICAO: LFSI) in the north-east of France. After a presentation and a short interview in the morning, captain Millet flew his low-level demo in the afternoon. The low-level show was caused by the low clouds that day.
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The presentation took place at Base Aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson (ICAO: LFSI) in the northeast of France. After a presentation and a short interview in the morning, Captain Millet flew his low-level demo in the afternoon. The low-level show was necessitated by the low clouds that day.
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Biography

Captain Millet joined the French Air and Space Force (Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace) in 2006, where he earned his wings in 2009. From 2010 onwards, he flew the Mirage 2000N from BA Istres for four years. After two years at the headquarters of the French nuclear headquarters at Taverny AB, he became a Rafale pilot at St-Dizier AB in 2016. Captain Millet will be the Rafale Solo Display pilot for the 2024-2025 season.

He is a member of the Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4 Aquitaine (Rafale Transition Squadron 3/4 Aquitaine) that trains French and foreign Rafale pilots.

For four years, he will be part of the Rafale Solo Display team.

In all countries around the world, fighter pilots have a callsign. This is for reasons of confidentiality on the one hand, and to be easily recognized on the radio on the other hand. During the initiation of a new pilot in a squadron, the new pilot receives a callsign from the other pilots. Captain Millet received the callsign “Mimouss” from his colleagues.
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Selection Process

For recruitment, a survey is sent to all Rafale pilots of the French Air and Space Force (AAE), so it is a voluntary job.

The AAE human resources department makes an initial selection based on the careers of the pilots who apply. They must have more than 500 hours of flight time on Rafale, they must be a patrol leader, and of course, they need to have an appetite for relationships and communication. And they must commit to four years, two years as a pilot followed by two years as a coach.

Finally, the candidates must pass an interview with the coach, the current demonstrator pilot, the commander of the Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4, and other air force personnel.

It is the current demonstrator who has the final say on the choice of the new RSD pilot, as the current demonstrator will be the coach for the next two years. They must have a match as they see each other more often than their spouses during the demo season.
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Preparations

Being a Rafale Solo Display demonstrator pilot is a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. “Performing a 10-minute demonstration in the air is the equivalent of running a marathon while sprinting”. The body must be well-prepared to handle all this while pulling many “G”-forces. The team has a sport-coach to train physical strength during the autumn and winter months before the training starts. “I do sporting activities on a daily basis, and a healthy lifestyle is also super important,” says Captain Millet. The Rafale demonstration is strictly personal and will only be performed by the demo pilot himself; in case of illness or absence, there will be no show, the coach will and cannot take over this demo.
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The airshow period normally starts in May, lasting until October or November, with an average of 30 airshows and events. So, every weekend there is an airshow, resulting in about one hundred demonstrations per year.

In January, the flight training began for the season 2024 with 30 training flights that increased each flight in complexity. Before take-off, Captain Millet prepared for the flight by ‘walking’ the demonstration on the ground, using his hands to mark the actual flight in the air.

To prepare for demo flying, Captain Millet flew with the Patrouille de France and the Équipe de Voltige to get acquainted with the concept of demo flying for a large crowd. This way, he learned what the audience on the ground would see while watching his Rafale demonstration.
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Annual Shows

The Rafale Solo Display is one of the ambassadors of the French Air and Space Force, next to the Patrouille de France with the AlphaJets and the Équipe de Voltige with the Extra EA-300 aircraft. The Rafale Solo Display can be seen at many airshows and exhibitions in France and abroad; to show the full capacity of the Rafale while representing France.

There are three types of Rafale shows depending on the weather conditions.
On a sunny day, the “high show” is performed, with a ceiling of 3500 feet.
On an overcast day, the “low show” is performed, with a ceiling of 1500 feet.
And when it is a very cloudy day, the “flat show” is performed, with a ceiling of only 800 feet.

Not only the spectators on the ground will experience these differences. Also, the Rafale pilot experiences these different sensations. During their training sessions, a sunny training under the sun at Solenzara AB in April gives a ‘slower’ experience than a gray winter training at Saint-Dizier AB in freezing conditions according to Captain Millet.
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Team

The previous RSD pilot, Captain Butin with the callsign “Bubu,” was the RSD in the seasons 2022-2023. For the season 2024-2025, he will be the coach and manager of the team. His task is to help Captain Millet concentrate fully on his primary mission: to fly the RSD Rafale during the shows. He takes care of everything in the team and ensures that everything goes well for “Mimouss” so he can concentrate on flying only. He takes care of the external communication with the organizers of shows and with the French general staff where requests for demonstrations arrive. Captain Butin also manages the technical issues in the team. Next to the previous and current pilots, there is a team of 45 Rafale technicians from St-Dizier AB ready to support the displays, and for every event, 8 or 9 technicians are selected to participate. As they travel mostly by truck to the various airbases, they spend hours on the road.