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FRA Bastille18 15Yearly on the Fête nationale (national celebration), the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789 is commemorated. Marking a turning point in the revolution that led to the French republic, the French Armed Forces of course gave acte de présence with a military parade on the Champs-Élysées which is overflown by arguably the best orchestrated aerial parade in the world.

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Tight and neat as ever, the nation's pride La Patrouille de France zoom by, opening the parade. But this year a very rare fluke occurred, notice the coloured smoke bellowed by them, there is some red where it should not be...

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Adieu cher deux mille nucléaire... the curtain fell for the deep penetration nuclear strike variant of the Mirage 2000 fighter, it is fittingly escorted by its successor, the Rafale B.

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Most assets of the Armée de l'Air are shown off, new transport Airbus Military A400M is being taken on strength in ever increasing numbers and it flew in tight formation with a CN235.

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Another new and very important aircraft is the Airbus Military A330 Multi-Role Tanker-Transport (MRTT), essential in supporting the French force de frappe and the various UN missions. This is the very first and will be delivered imminently. The red smoke gives the photo a somewhat eerie atmosphere...

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Backbone of the shipborne aerial force, the Aeronavale, is formed by the Rafale M. This quartet have their arrestor hooks deployed. This device is used to arrest a cable on deck upon landing, abruptly stopping the landing aircraft.

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Patrol aircraft are another important element of the Aeronavale. Both the Brequet Atlantique (Nouvelle Generation) and the Dassault 50 business jet are used. The latter also often deploys to the French colonies.

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Army aviation presented all of their helicopter types and also two PC-6s, that excel in paradropping.

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The helicopters are a bit smaller, but do not worry, they are shown off afterwards in town. Issy-les-Moulineaux is used as staging field for these unique urban aerial demonstrations. The local office buildings form a strange backdrop for the military helicopters as they depart or come in to land.

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This is the place to get up close and personal with both the helicopters and the crews, as these SA330Ba Pumas illustrate.

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Tactical demonstrations include fast roping, overpowering 'terrorists' and freeing 'hostages'. The special forces were packed with gear and had their faces covered, their personal identity should be guarded at all times. Even at 30°C.