On 28 July 2022, the post of the Deputy Director of the European Air Group changed from Air Commodore Hugh Smith of the Royal Air Force, to Général de Brigade Aérienne Xavier Foissey of the French Air and Space Force at the European Air Group Head Quarters at RAF High Wycombe.
The ceremony began with Air Commodore Smith and Général de Brigade Aérienne Foissey signing the official handover documents representing the formal change of command. After the handover, Air Commodore Hugh Smith addressed the permanent staff and began by thanking them for their work during his tenure. He emphasised the importance and relevance of the interoperability work and the breadth of activity undertaken by European Air Group Staff covering Air Operations, Logistics, Communication and Force Protection. He acknowledged the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic but highlighted the dedication of the permanent staff to deliver across the EAG’s projects despite the restrictions. He also highlighted the international engagement aspect of the role, with the opportunity for the personnel of the EAG and partner organizations to understand each other’s operations and to build relationships for the future, with the EAG’s National Lunches as a favourite memory. Air Commodore Smith closed his speech by wishing Général de Brigade Aérienne Foissey well in his new role. In his final act, Air Commodore Smith presented Général Foissey with the EAG badges of office.
Général de Brigade Aérienne Foissey was invited to give a few words of arrival. He began by thanking Air Commodore Smith for his comprehensive handover of the Deputy Director role, before providing a summary of his career as Transport pilot and staff officer within the recently retitled French Air and Space Force He spoke of his honour to be made Deputy Director of the European Air Group which began with his first official duty, which was to present Air Commodore Smith with the traditional EAG leaving gifts.
The Deputy Director of the European Air Group is a rotational post changing between the seven Air Forces of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The Deputy Director’s role is to provide strategic direction to the permanent staff of the European Air Group, on behalf of the European Air group Steering Group, which comprises Chiefs of the seven air forces.
The primary purpose of the European Air Group is to promote interoperability among its seven Air Forces, focussing its efforts on delivering tangible outputs primarily at tactical and operational levels. It has generated many highly successful air power initiatives, ranging from technical agreements and training through to air operations, many of which have been tested and improved during the highly successful VOLCANEX exercises. The next VOLCANEX are due to hold in September and October respectively for CIS and Force Protection. Some of its work has formed the basis for subsequent developments on a substantial scale, including European Air Transport Command and the European Personnel Recovery Centre.