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becoming a fighter pilot

How do I become a fighter pilot?

Do you have adrenalin and a passion for the air in your blood? Join the French Air and Space Force and become a fighter pilot! This prestigious profession is reserved for ambitious, talented soldiers.

Fighter pilots fly intense missions and need to prepare several months in advance. The fighter pilot profession can be accessed via several routes within the army.

Here's everything you need to know about becoming a fighter pilot in the French Army!

Find out all the ways you can join the French army in our dedicated article!

The specificities of the fighter pilot profession

fighter pilot training

The profession of fighter pilot is only available in the French Army. Only the French Navy andAir Force recruit fighter pilots from their ranks . Entry requirements for this demanding profession vary from one army to another.

Good to know: both Air Force and Navy training courses are remunerated, and students are considered military officer cadets.

Read our article on the speed of fighter jets !

Become a fighter pilot in the French Air Force

To join the French Air and Space Force, any soldier wishing to become a fighter pilot must meet the following conditions:

  • French nationality
  • Be between 17 and 27 years of age on the date the contract is signed
  • Have a baccalaureate, an equivalent qualification or a higher education diploma
  • Medical and physical fitness required for entry
  • Excellent eyesight (no glasses)
  • Once these conditions have been met, the soldier must be approved by the integration commission.

Following a positive opinion from the latter, the candidate signs an initial 10-year contract with the French Air and Space Force. Training to become a fighter pilot with the French Air and Space Force lasts 4 years and 4 months.

Here is the training course:

  • Initial military training, common to all army officer cadets, lasting 17 weeks.
  • 4 years of specific fighter pilot training, including flight training, a core syllabus, specialization training and an operational transformation phase on Mirage or Rafale aircraft.

On completion of training, students are awarded a fighter pilot's license. Most of the training takes place at the École de l'Air in Salon-de-Provence.

Become a fighter pilot in the French Navy

If you'd like to become a fighter pilot in the French Navy, you should know that this army recruits through an internal competitive examination to enter theNaval Academy. Here are the compulsory recruitment conditions:

  • Hold a baccalaureate
  • Between 17 and 26 years of age

The internal competition is open to naval aviation pilot cadets (EOPAN). After passing the exam, training lasts 3 years and is structured as follows:

  • A 12-month initial military training course for officer cadets
  • 18 months of pilot training
  • 3-month fighter pilot specialization course

On completion of their training, cadets become naval aviation pilots, and can work as fighter pilots, multi-engine pilots, airborne surveillance pilots or helicopter pilots.

Interested in joining the French Navy? Find out more about all the entry routes in our article on recruitment for the French Navy!

Skills required to become a fighter pilot

fighter pilot skills

Becoming a fighter pilot is not for everyone! It's a high-risk, high-responsibility profession that many of us dream of, but only a minority can actually become one. Here are some of the skills you'll need to become a fighter pilot!

Excellent eyesight

This medical condition is mandatory to join the Air and Space Force and become a pilot. While for other military professions, a slight ophthalmic correction may be acceptable, this is not the case for fighter pilots. Your visual acuity must be 10/10, no more, no less. This will be checked at a military medical examination.

Your physical and psychological fitness will also be measured using the SIGYCOP test. The 7 letters correspond to a specific medical field:

  • S: Upper limbs
  • I: Lower limbs
  • G: General condition
  • Y: Eyes
  • C: Color sense (color recognition)
  • O: Hearing
  • P: Psyche

The score must be as low as possible in order to join the French Army. If the score is too high, the soldier may be declared unfit for duty. Fighter pilots must comply with precise morphological rules: size of the femur, good condition of the back, etc. These rules are mandatory to guarantee the soldier's good health in the event of ejection from the aircraft. The rules are very strict when a soldier is admitted as a fighter pilot, but can be relaxed over the years.

Want to find out more about the military medical examination? Read our article about the military medical examination!


Fighter pilots in military aviation have to be ambitious to achieve their goal. Indeed, the path to becoming a fighter pilot is difficult, and recruitment is highly selective. Only the most ambitious candidates succeed in attaining the desired position.

Later, if the fighter pilot wishes to progress and acquire higher military ranks, his ambition will be decisive.

Love adrenaline

The profession of fighter pilot is based on high-risk aerial missions with heavy responsibilities. The working conditions demand rigor, passion and, above all, a taste for adrenalin! Soldiers wishing to become fighter pilots must have a taste for risk. They also need to be cool-headed at all times. If this sounds like you, you're sure to make an excellent fighter pilot!

Ability to react quickly

Naturally, the working conditions of a fighter pilot demand responsiveness. In fact, military fighter pilots must be prepared for all eventualities during aerial combat. Without responsiveness, the safety of the pilot and his army cannot be guaranteed. Responsiveness is an essential skill for any military candidate wishing to become a fighter pilot.

The daily life of a fighter pilot

being a fighter pilot

The daily life of a fighter pilot is not the same every day. His schedule and missions are constantly changing, depending on current events and the needs of the army. Fighter pilots are not always in the air, but also carry out missions on land: mission briefings, studying the environment, reviewing combat techniques...

Generally, when not on mission, a fighter pilot makes training flights between three and four times a week. In the French Air and Space Force, fighter pilots fly Mirage or Rafale aircraft! Fighter pilots can be deployed to war-torn countries at any time. There, they carry out air combat, deterrence and interception missions, as well as aerial reconnaissance. They are the guarantors of the air force's air and space safety.

Discover our article on the world's most beautiful military aircraft!

Possible career paths for a fighter pilot

army fighter pilot

During recruitment and training, fighter pilots are regarded as military officer cadets. At the end of his training, he becomes an operational fighter pilot and obtains the rank of midshipman. The fighter pilot can then become leader of two aircraft and deputy patrol leader. The fighter pilot is then considered a second lieutenant.

The fighter pilot can then progress to patrol leader, with four or more aircraft, and then to mission leader. This high status enables fighter pilots to reach the rank of colonel, with responsibility for a large number of aircraft.

Discover our article on the different military ranks in France!

The remuneration of a fighter pilot in the army

fighter pilot compensation

A fighter pilot's salary begins as soon as he or she starts training. Indeed, training to become a fighter pilot is remunerated. As a cadet, the future fighter pilot earns 1328€ net. Upon graduation, fighter pilots earn €1,761.47 net as midshipmen. After 6 months as a midshipman, fighter pilots can be promoted to second lieutenant, earning €2636 net.

Salaries shown are for a single soldier, without children and not housed by the Army. Salaries may vary depending on your place of residence (whether or not you are housed by the Army) and your family situation (single, with or without children, etc.).

The benefits of being a fighter pilot in the army

Fighter pilots have access to many advantages thanks to their military status. Here are the benefits available to soldiers joining the French Army as fighter pilots:

  • 45 days' leave per year
  • 75% discount on SNCF fares for the soldier and up to 50% for spouse and children
  • Equal pay for all genders
  • Housing assistance
  • Accommodation available on base for new pilots

Read our article on the world's most beautiful military helicopters !

Are you curious? Don't know yet what profession you'd like to join? Here are our articles dedicated to careers in the French army:

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