Pacific Skies 2024: European Air Forces Demonstrate Indo-Pacific Intervention Capability

Alexander Mitchell
Alexander Mitchell
Pilot on the B-767, international and overwater operations. Accomplished SIGINT/LLVI operator with five years of diverse experience in strategic and tactical operations. Adept in handling confidential information and situations with discretion. Respected leader, providing purpose, motivation, and direction focused on achieving and exceeding company goals.

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In a landmark display of their Indo-Pacific intervention capabilities, the Spanish, French, and German Air Forces are embarking on a global circumnavigation as part of the Pacific Skies 2024 initiative. This strategic deployment underscores the readiness of these European aerospace forces to operate collaboratively and project power worldwide.

The Mission and Its Scope

Pacific Skies 2024, starting from the Nörvenich Air Base in Germany and concluding at Sulur Base in India, involves a fleet of 28 combat aircraft and 16 tanker and transport aircraft. Over a period of 54 days, the mission will cover a staggering 58,000 kilometers or approximately 36,000 miles. This extensive journey includes participation in high-profile military exercises such as Arctic Defender in Alaska, Pitch Black in Australia, and Tarang Shakti in India, alongside logistical stops in Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

Itinerary for the Global Tour of the Spanish, German, and French Air Forces. Source: Bundeswehr/Luftwaffe

Exercises and Strategic Stops

These exercises provide a comprehensive training environment for the airmen, enhancing their readiness for current and future scenarios. Arctic Defender will see the forces operating in extreme conditions, while Pitch Black offers a complex multinational setting for large-scale aerial combat. Tarang Shakti will provide a platform for intricate joint operations. The logistical stops in Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia ensure sustained operational capability and showcase strategic partnerships in the region.

European Defense Industry Showcase

The deployment prominently features advanced European defense technology, including the Eurofighter, Rafale, A330 MRTT, and A400M aircraft. This initiative not only demonstrates the operational capabilities of these platforms but also reinforces the strength and innovation of the European defense industry. By relying solely on European-developed assets, the mission highlights the continent’s self-reliance in high-level aerospace technology.

Enhanced Interoperability and Collaboration

A critical aspect of Pacific Skies 2024 is the emphasis on interoperability among the Spanish, French, and German forces. The mission involves intricate operations such as in-flight refueling, where Spanish Eurofighters will be refueled by German Air Force A330 MRTT aircraft. Additionally, Spanish A400Ms will transport cargo and provide support throughout the deployment, ensuring seamless coordination among the allied forces.

During the extended flights of the deployment, Spanish Eurofighters will be refueled mid-air by German Air Force aircraft. Photo from German Armed Forces/Christian Timmig

In a move to maximize efficiency, the participating nations have established collaboration agreements for shared maintenance of their aircraft. This approach, particularly involving Spanish and German Eurofighters, will enhance preventive and active maintenance effectiveness, reducing downtime and increasing operational availability.

Building on Previous Deployments

Pacific Skies 2024 builds on the experience and lessons learned from prior European deployments in the Indo-Pacific. Notable among these exercises, are Rapid Pacific 2022 and Operation Henri Brown. In Rapid Pacific 2022, the German Luftwaffe deployed six Eurofighters, four A400M transport aircraft, and three A330 MRTT tankers over a 12,800-kilometer journey to Australia. Similarly, Operation Henri Brown saw the French Air and Space Force deploy three Rafale fighters, two A330 MRTT tankers, and two A400M transport aircraft to New Caledonia.

Air Force units involved. Source: German Army/Air Force

Breakdown of Aircraft

  • Spanish Air and Space Force (Spain):
    • 4 Eurofighter jets
    • 2 A400M transport aircraft
    • 1 A330 MRTT multirole tanker aircraft
  • Luftwaffe (Germany):
    • 8 Eurofighter jets
    • 12 Tornado attack aircraft
    • 4 A400M transport aircraft
    • 4 A330 MRTT multirole tanker aircraft
  • l’Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace (France):
    • 4 Rafale fighters
    • 3 A400M transport aircraft
    • 2 A330 MRTT multirole tanker aircraft

NATO’s Strategic Focus on the Indo-Pacific

These deployments underscore NATO’s increasing focus on the Indo-Pacific region, reflecting the alliance’s strategic interest in maintaining stability and responding to emerging challenges in this vital area. Pacific Skies 2024 is the most significant of these deployments, representing a robust commitment to collective defense and the projection of power far beyond European borders.

Pacific Skies 2024 marks a pivotal moment in demonstrating the capability, readiness, and collaborative strength of the Spanish, French, and German Air Forces. Through this extensive deployment, these nations not only enhance their operational capabilities but also send a clear message of their strategic presence and commitment to global security.