This video does not show a US squadron heading to North Korea


When a video was uploaded to the internet on Saturday April 15 showing a squadron of military planes heading west, internet users embraced the theory that it was an American cargo plane carrying nuclear bombs surrounded by a security escort, on its way to North Korea. In reality, the planes actually came from a bit further away – France.

The amateur video uploaded to YouTube shows one large plane closely tailed by ten smaller ones, describing them as a cargo plane and ten fighter planes. The video’s caption says, “Toward Korea? Feeling of "dread" on the ground was palpable.” The websites that picked up the video questioned whether the cargo plane was carrying nuclear munitions. This comes in the wake of heightened tensions recently between the United States and North Korea.

IntelliHub was one of the websites to republish the video, asking ominously, “What was this plane carrying that was so important?” FakeNewsWatch has classified IntelliHub as one of a number of ‘clickbait’ websites that publish unreliable news. The video has been viewed nearly 20,000 times on YouTube.

French on tour

A reverse image search on the Amnesty International verification tool YouTube Data Viewer shows that it hasn’t appeared before on YouTube, so it is probably very recent.

However, as many internet users have pointed out, it actually shows the French Acrobatic Patrol (PAF), the aerial acrobatics demonstration team of the French Air Force – who, it just so happens, are in the United States on a month-and-a-half-long tour. The large cargo plane in front is an A400M Atlas, followed by ten smaller Alphajets, in the typical formation used by PAF.

An image of the US tour route by the Patrouille de France (French patrol), published on their website. Between the 13th and the 16th April, the team were due to be in California.

At the time the video was taken, the patrol was on the West Coast leg of its tour, taking in the sights of California and stopping for a photo op over the Golden Gate Bridge. The French Consulate in San Francisco has published several videos on its Facebook page shot from inside the aircraft.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted the spokesperson for PAF, Antonia Buroni, who confirmed in an email that “It certainly does show the 10 planes from the French patrol, behind our A400M – it was a transit flight”.

Arnaud Delalande, an aviation specialist, told FRANCE 24, “The French patrol is the only patrol in the world that flies with an A400M for this type of demonstration. The normal job for this cargo plane is to transport the equipment for the team.”

Several of the websites that published the video have since added updates saying that “eyewitnesses” are claiming that the squadron is part of the French patrol – but they have not taken down the original headline or false suppositions.