This weekend sees the Armée de l’Air’s aerobatic display team, the Patrouille de France, celebrate its 60th birthday. Gareth Stringer provides a brief history of the team, with images as credited.
Formed in 1953, PdF began life with the Republic F-84 Thunderjet, before utilising the Dassault Ouragan (1954-1957), Dassault Mystère IV (1957-1964) and, from 1964-1981, the Fouga Magister.
The switch to the Magister coincided with the team taking residence at Base Aérienne 701 Salon-de-Provence, where they have been based ever since, switching to the Dassault-Breguet / Dornier Alpha Jet in 1981.
In 1952 a Squadron Leader Delachenal, a pilot with the 3rd Combat Division and based at Reims-Champagne, put together a team of four F-84 aircraft and, a year later, during an airshow at Maison Blanche in Algeria, the show commentator christened the team “Patrouille de France”.
Numerous units took up the mantle in the years that followed but, as with many national display teams of that era, budget cuts meant that continuing to use front-line squadrons became impractical. Keen to keep the name going, however, the team came in to official-being with six Magisters at Salon. At the end of the 1980 season, by which time PdF was flying a nine-ship display, the venerable Magisters were replaced by seven Alpha Jets and, with an additional jet added in 1982, the team has remained an eight-ship ever since.
Notably, in 2009 the team became the first in the world to name a female pilot as leader, namely Commandant Virginie Guyot.
This weekend’s birthday celebrations are taking place at Salon and see the PdF joined by the likes of the RAF Red Arrows, the Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori, Croatia’s Wings of Storm and Switzerland’s Patrouille de Suisse, as well as a number of other Armée de l’Air displays such as Rafale and Ramex Delta.
We look forward to welcoming the team to the UK this summer (Waddington, RIAT, Duxford) and would like to take this opportunity of saying joyeux soixantième anniversaire!