Patrouille de France
France has a long tradition of military aerobatics: the first display team was formed as early as 1931. In the decades that followed there were various display teams, some of which were introduced at airshows as Patrouille de France – an honour which was first bestowed on the Patrouille de la 3ème escadre in Algiers in 1953. In 1964, budget cuts within the Air Force almost ended the tradition of aerobatic display teams in France. Fortunately, keen that the Patrouille de France name should not be lost, armed forces minister at the time, Pierre Messmer, announced on February 10, 1964, that the «Patrouille de l’école de l’air» team stationed at Salon-de-Provence would be officially renamed: "I am honoured to announce that the team will henceforth be known as Patrouille de France."
Up until 1980 the PAF, as the Patrouille de France are frequently referred to in France, had captured the hearts of national and international airshow fans with the Fouga Magister jet trainer. Then in 1981 the team switched to their trademark red, white and blue Alpha Jets, which they continue to fly today. The team of seven was increased to eight a year later, two of which perform solo displays. Only on Bastille Day in Paris do the Patrouille de France fly with nine Alpha Jets: the team add an extra aircraft to their number so that three groups of three planes can trail smoke in the colours of the French Tricolour in the skies above the Champs Élysées.