The French Army Air Service (Aéronautique Militaire) was formed in October 1910. France led the world in early aircraft design and by mid-1912 they had five squadrons (escadrilles). This had grown to 132 machines (21 escadrilles) by 1914.
At the beginning of the First World War the Aéronautique Militaire concentrated on reconnaissance work with aircraft like the Farman MF-II. This changed after Roland Garros, added deflector plates to the blades of the propeller of his Morane-Saulnier. Garros, in some respects, the world's first fighter pilot, was shot down and captured, but his example inspired a change in tactics.
The Nieuport II, Nieuport 17 , and Spad S-XIII were popular aircraft with French pilots during the war. So also was the Voisin V light bomber that became available in 1915. France's most successful fighter pilots included Rene Fonck (75), Georges Guynemer (53) and Charles Nungesser (43).
By April 1917, the Aéronautique Militaire had 2,870 aircraft comprising 60 fighter and 20 bomber squadrons and 400 observation planes. By the Armistice this had increased to 3,222 aircraft, with 127,630 officers and men.