Arriving at the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s Subang Airbase recently was the French Air and Space Force (FASF) contingent as part of the PEGASE 23 mission. With a strength of two Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft, another pair of Airbus A330 Phénix Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and four Dassault Rafale fighters, PEGASE is the FASF’s manifestation of military diplomacy via the Long Range Power Projection in the Asia Pacific region.
The detachment was headed by Brig Gen Vincent Coste, Commander of the FASF Air Combat Brigade and would be in Malaysia from June 25 to June 28 to partake in bilateral exchanges with their Malaysian counterparts through seminars and Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SME).
Among the bilateral trainings were joint flights between the FASF aircraft and the RMAF’s own Airbus A400M, Sukhoi Su-30 MKM, Boeing F/A-18D Hornet.
The PEGASE mission as a whole actually consists of 19 aircraft — four Airbus A400Ms, 10 Rafale fighters and five A330 MRTTs. Subang was one of the eleven scheduled stops in 10 countries for exchanges in expertise with 14 foreign air forces to forge cooperation and further improve interoperability.
Among the other stops are Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Guam, Hawaii, New Caledonia, French Polynesia. Indonesia ordered 42 Rafales in early 2022.
The French projection of power in the region was vital as France’s overseas territories comprise over two million French nationals with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 9 million square kilometres, hence France’s indefinite military presence in the form of over 6,000 French servicemen stationed across the region to defend their interests and freedom of action and movement in adherence to international law as well as the protection of their citizens.
PEGASE also highlights the FASF’s ability to regularly deploy significant aerial assets autonomously considerably far away from continental Europe within a tight window of time.
Simultaneously, the mission aims to assert its sovereignty and showcase their ability to defend their interests no matter where and reinforce defence partnerships through enhanced interoperability and operational effectiveness with regional partners such as Malaysia that have maintained historically close cooperation since 1957, namely the military aspect with PEGASE being a testament to the mutual trust shared between the countries with logistical synergy attributed to the use of mutual defence assets.
France interestingly reportedly pushed back on a proposal for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to establish a liaison office in Japan in response to China’s rising influence in the region.
The decision against it cites Japan being geographically beyond the originally gazetted North Atlantic in NATO and concerns that it may exacerbate tensions between China and the trans-Atlantic alliance. Despite that, Japan and France have agreed to strengthen their defence partnership. –adj/dl/mhi (Pix: Asian Defence Journal)