William Molinié, edited by Nathanaël Bentura
2:29 p.m., March 16, 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky has given up integrating Ukraine into NATO. However, the French air force continues to fly over the country on behalf of the organization. In three weeks, the fighter jets flew along the Ukrainian border for more than 320 hours. These operations are monitored in real time from Air Base 942, near Lyon.
While new negotiations are taking place this Wednesday between Ukraine and Russia, NATO does not take its eyes off the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders. Volodymyr Zelensky gave in to Moscow’s demands by renouncing to join the organization. However, the French air force continues to follow the Ukrainian border, as since the beginning of the conflict. In total, the fighter jets flew more than 320 kilometers. In Air Base 942, a highly sensitive defense zone near Lyon, the Air Force plans and monitors operations in real time.
Planned operations from Lyon
The base is totally buried under the heights of the Monts d’Or. The hushed room is surrounded by screens and cell phones are prohibited. At the moment, the military is following French fighter planes deployed on the eastern flank of NATO countries. As on the first day of the Russian invasion, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric supervised this Tuesday the mission of the two bursts and a French tanker in Poland, along the Ukrainian and Belarusian border. His obsession is to avoid an incident at the border. “An error, to take a turn a little too wide, or to touch the border. It can be considered as an aggressive act”, he explains.
In fact, great precautions must be taken. “Everyone takes a margin on either side of the border to be sure not to make a mistake. A few kilometers to a few tens of kilometers.” According to information from Europe 1, 21 missions of this type have been launched since the start of the war.
The AWACS, these huge radar planes responsible for collecting intelligence, came out three times. These sensitive operations can change in nature at any time, as General Guillaume Thomas explains: “There is never routine in this type of mission. When the crews leave, they always put themselves in a position to deal with any type of situation.”
Another room is at the bottom of a maze of corridors buried tens of meters away. This time, on the screen, we can see the airspace of France: 12,000 aircraft fly over the territory every day. Russian aircraft no longer have the right to enter since the beginning of the conflict. Just under ten of them were intercepted and immobilized.