French/US Navy’s hold cross-deck interoperability exercises

The US Navy’s Nimitz-class USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) and the Marine Nationale’s (French Navy’s) FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) aircraft carriers have held cross-deck interoperability exercises.

The exercises were held in the Mediterranean Sea on March 3, providing an opportunity for pilots belonging to both naval air arms to practice landings and launches from two different flight decks. Naval leaders of each respective carrier strike group were present, observing their pilots operating from foreign naval vessels.

LCDR Nick Smith said: “It was an [honour] to participate in the first-ever F/A-18E Super Hornet recovery aboard the FS Charles de Gaulle… The seamless integration of French and US systems and operators shows not only the compatibility of our practices and procedures, but also the strength of our alliance.”

Dassault Rafale on Charles de Gaulle [US Navy/MCS2C Kaleb J Sarten]
A Dassault Rafale M - serial 20 - assigned to Flottille 12F, is spotted by US Navy and Marine Nationale personnel on the FS Charles de Gaulle during interoperability exercises on March 3. US Navy/MCS2C Kaleb J Sarten

The exercise comprised of two US pilots flying the Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet and four French naval aviators, flying the Dassault Rafale M and a Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye.

The aircraft performed touch-and-go's, along with a trap and recovery on each carrier. It also saw each navy move personnel and equipment between the two vessels via helicopter throughout the exercise’s duration.

CAPT Trevor Estes, commanding officer (CO) of Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW 3), said that the exercise demonstrated the versatility of each nation’s naval air power, adding that the “'Battle Axe team' was [honoured] to execute the first trap by a ‘Rhino' aboard the CDG and more importantly, extend even further an already strong allied relationship through inter-operations in the skies over the Mediterranean.”

US/French Navy Carrier Interoperability Exercises [US Navy/MCS2C Kaleb J Sarten] #1
Members of the US Navy and the Marine Nationale - along with a Royal Navy exchange pilot - pose for a photo in front of a F/A-18E Super Hornet on the deck of FS Charles de Gaulle on March 3. US Navy/MCS2C Kaleb J Sarten

RADM Marc Aussedat, CO of Task Force 473, said: “[The exercise was] a concrete way to enhance our know-how to operate together, amongst which a swift ability to plug, to share tactical information, to catch and catapult aircraft indifferently on either aircraft carrier and to couple our fighting spirits in a complex maritime environment for a wide range of actions alongside.”

The exercise is not the first time the two aircraft carriers have operated alongside each other, having conducted joint operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve from the Mediterranean Sea in 2016. The USS Dwight D Eisenhower is currently deployed to support maritime security operations in international waters.