The French Connection

A Rafale Marine attached to squadron 17F of the French navy awaits pre-flight checks before flight operations aboard aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Joe Boggio)

U.S., French Navies Complete Chesapeake 2018 Combined Exercise

U.S. Sailors aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) celebrated the completion of the Chesapeake 2018 training operation as the Rafale Marine launched into the distant skyline—the last French aircraft to depart from the aircraft carrier May 18.

A Rafale Marine assigned to squadron “17F” of the French navy lands on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Zachary P. Wickline)

During the exercise, Sailors with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 and the French navy’s (Marine Nationale) CVW (Groupe Aerien Embarque) embarked Bush from May 7-18 to conduct training and carrier qualifications—a series of arrested landings and takeoffs from an aircraft carrier to maintain their proficiency—while the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91) undergoes maintenance. Charles de Gaulle is the only other short form takeoff nuclear carrier outside the U.S. Navy.

The French CVW consists of one E-2C Hawkeye, 12 Rafale Marine multirole combat aircraft and 27 pilots. The exercise began in April at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, and continued at sea, where approximately 3,700 U.S. Navy and 301 French Sailors maintained, launched and recovered aircraft to strengthen interoperability between the two naval forces.

“The French sailors acclimated very well to the U.S. carrier and the environment because of their experience operating off the Charles de Gaulle,” said Capt. Sean R. Bailey, Bush’s Commanding Officer. “Our Sailors were very welcoming and supportive of the French sailors coming on board. Having the opportunity to live, interact and work together created strong bonds and friendships between the U.S. and French sailors, which, consequently, was an essential component for such success during this underway.”

From right to left in front, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of the French navy Adm. Christophe Prazuck watch a video during their visit aboard aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Sean Hurt)

Chesapeake 2018 provided valuable training for the U.S. and French carrier air wings as they conducted multiple combat scenarios, including cyclic flight operations and combat search-and-rescues, and a series of arrested landings and launches by aircraft from both countries. In addition, more than 180 training evolutions and missions were accomplished on board the ship.

One of the highlights was the arrival of the highest ranking officers from each navy: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Staff of the French navy Adm. Christophe Prazuck.

While aboard, Richardson and Prazuck toured the ship and spoke with crew from both navies about interoperability and relations between the two.

“As I look out on the flight deck, waiting to see the next launch, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between U.S. Sailors and French sailors as they prepare for the next launches,” Richardson said. “This is exactly the level of teamwork we’re going to need as we confront our high-end competitors in high-end blue water warfare.”

Marine Nationale (French navy) Sailors are assigned float coats in preparation for an underway aboard aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Joe Boggio)

Richardson and Prazuck praised the crews for their commitment to performing well and to the long hours they put in to maintain combat readiness.

“All this is not merely a technical or a diplomatic exercise,” Pruzack said. “What we’re really doing is preparing to fight together in the future if we are ever called to do so, proving our seamless interoperability is a very powerful message.”

In April, both navies conducted air strikes on Syrian chemical weapons infrastructures, and in June 2016, Richardson presented Charles de Gaulle with a U.S. Meritorious Unit Commendation for the French navy’s success as the only non-U.S navy entity to take command of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 50 during Operation Inherent Resolve.

Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Zachary P. Wickline and Joe Boggio are members of USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs.

French Aviators Train Aboard Truman

ATLANTIC OCEAN— As part of French Air Defense week in July, French Dassault Rafale M Fighters conducted exercises with F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and E-2D Hawkeyes from Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW) embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

The week long exercise is designed to demonstrate interoperability and increase readiness as U.S. aircraft integrated with French Navy counterparts during training and simulation maneuvers.

“France is our oldest ally and a vital partner in ensuring security and stability in the region and across the globe,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander, Carrier Strike Group 8, said in a statement. “The opportunity to integrate with French Naval Aviation helps us enhance our interoperability as we work to achieve common objectives.”

This is the second time this year French naval aviators trained with the U.S. Navy.

“It’s always an honor to have our great friends and partners aboard Truman,” said Harry S. Truman Commanding Officer, Capt. Nick Dienna. “This visit caps off a phenomenal few weeks operating in Sixth Fleet. Our Sailors were graciously welcomed in Marseille, and we are now working bilaterally with our French counterparts to hone our skills for joint operations whenever, wherever we are needed.”

From USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs.

F/A-18 Super Hornets, assigned to Carrier Air Wing One, and French Dassault Rafale M Fighters fly over the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (Navy photo by MC3 Rebekah A. Watkins)