Rafale M fighters and E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft of the Marine Nationale (French Navy) returned to the deck of a US Navy aircraft carrier earlier this month. French Naval Aviation assets conducted integrated flight operations with aircraft from Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1), embarked aboard USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75), from July 2 to 6.
The aim of the French Air Defense week was to increase readiness and demonstrate the ability to operate together by practicing air warfare and strike techniques, including dissimilar air combat training.
With the Charles de Gaulles trike carrier undergoing an 18-month refit – including nuclear refuelling and a mid-life update – the Marine Nationale was left without a platform to train its Rafale and Hawkeye aircrews for carrier operations, and defence chiefs had to look abroad to solve the problem.
It’s the second such period of cross-deck operations following Opération Chesapeake, the at-sea portion of which involved one French E-2C and 12 Rafale Ms operating on board USS George H W Bush (CVN 77) off the US east coast from May 7 to 18.
“France is our oldest ally and a vital partner in ensuring security and stability in the region and across the globe,” said Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8, RADM Gene Black, during the Truman embark. “The opportunity to integrate with French Naval Aviation helps us enhance our interoperability as we work to achieve common objectives.”
Throughout the exercise, flight operations were conducted over France and French territorial and international waters in the Bay of Biscay.
Harry S Truman is currently deployed in the US Sixth Fleet area of operations.
A full report on Opération Chesapeake appears in the forthcoming August issue of AFM.