French Rafale M fighters will make an unusual addition to the flight deck of the USS George H. W. Bush as France looks to boost military cooperation with the United States.
Approximately 350 sailors and pilots will make up the French contingent on board the Nimitz class carrier, consisting of personnel across the full spectrum of carrier aviation operations; aircrew, maintenance technicians, flight deck crew and operations officers. Both Rafale M fighters and E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft from French Naval Aviation will be embarked and flown from the vessel.
The French Navy has been without an operational carrier since 2015 when the Charles de Gaulle entered a major maintenance period after several operational deployments to the Middle East. The French flagship is now scheduled to re-join the fleet in the late spring and the deployment on-board the American carrier will make sure her aircrew are ready to bring her back into service.
In addition to re-certifying their pilots in carrier operations and conducting cross deck familiarisation training before their own carrier is back online, the French Navy will be taking the opportunity to promote even closer working relationships with their American counterparts.
“We want to demonstrate our ability to integrate with US military services”, Captain Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze, the French Naval Attache to the United States, told USNI News.
The deployment will begin at Naval Ai Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach where the French personnel will familiarise themselves with the US Navy’s operating environment and systems to make sure they are ready for the pressures of working together at sea.
The deployment was first announced in December following talks in Paris between the American Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, and the French Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Chrisophe Prazuck. Relations between the United States and France, particularly in the field of defence, have warmed significantly in recent years since the Sarkozy presidency. With this latest announcement it appears that trend will continue between the Macron and Trump administrations.