Three French Rafale Fighters have joined Nato’s Air Shielding mission in Romania to support Agile Combat Employment, the Allied Air Command announced on 17 October. 

The Agile Combat Employment (ACE) of Allied fighter aircraft is considered as a method to enhance the survivability and operational effectiveness of Nato aircraft and systems. ACE deployments can enhance organisational agility and flexibility, as well as help mitigate the risk of becoming overly predictable and vulnerable to targeting. The concept enables Nato air forces to enhance their speed and responsiveness in order to efficiently deploy and redeploy as needed.

By request from Nato and Romanian authorities the Rafale fighters will conduct air defence missions with the Romanian Air Force out of Fetesti Air Base from 16–22 October, in close cooperation with the French MAMBA surface-base air defence system deployed at Cape Midia, according to Colonel Pierre Gaudilliere, spokesperson of the French Joint Defence Staff.

“Through our support for Nato Air Shielding missions and contribution to the enhanced Vigilance Activities, France is fully committed to the security of the Allies,” Colonel Gaudilliere added.

The Rafale Multirole Combat Fighter, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, is a twin-jet combat aircraft employed by the French Air and Space Force for a wide range of short and long-range missions including ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence.

When discussing a one-day aerial manoeuvres series in service to Nato’s Air shielding Mission in October 2022, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kendall, commander of the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, described Nato’s Air Shielding mission as an enhanced posture on the eastern flank of Nato territory, “not only to deter our adversaries, but also to assure our Allies that we are ready to respond to any threat, any time”. 

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During their stay, the French Rafale will engage in a range of advanced training exercises with the Romanian F-16 fighters, and will provide Nato with an opportunity to showcase cohesion and interoperability between its Allied forces.

“Nato’s Air Shielding mission provides an enhanced posture that allows the Alliance to deter potential threats from the air,” said Brigadier General Ömer Nafiz Gülmezoglu, Deputy Chief of Staff Plans at Allied Air Command. “Air Shielding brings an unprecedented number of Allied aircraft on patrol on Nato’s eastern flank. Fighter jets are ready to deter and defend against any threat. These activities are conducted in compliance with international laws and standards. They are defensive, but they signal Nato’s readiness to protect our Allies,” General Gülmezoglu added.

Earlier this October, Netherlands deployed MQ-9 reaper drones to Romania as part of the Air Shielding mission, to strengthen the imaging intelligence and signals intelligence of Nato’s Eastern flank as part of a six-month mission.