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.

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Three years is a long time to go without training for carrier operations, I’m surprised they where not seconded out long before now. I take they have some sort of carrier training facility on land somewhere.


Bien sûr, les bases aéronavales nautiques (Ban de Lanvėoc le Poulnic ou Ban de Hyeres..) sont utilisées pour faire face aux problème de la maintenance du Porte avions Charles de Gaulle. Mais pour l’appontage rien ne peux remplacer un P.A. Cordialement

Dave Branney

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see a news article stating Russia and China conducting joint carrier Ops sometime in the future, using a one of the Chinese carriers. After the debacle that the Russian Navy presented to the World, when deployed just off the Syrian coast. For a publicity coup, they put in to service a clapped out carrier and in doing so lost two aircraft in the process. Their deployment seriously highlighted how important it is to carry out every day and long term maintenance on their flagship; but also how critical it is to maintain… Read more »


Only V/STOVL types like the F35B, Harrier, etc. Out of our allies who have carriers, this effective means only the Spanish, the Italians, and the USMC can cross deck with us


And the Japanese?


“We want to demonstrate our ability to integrate with US military services”

Lol, the French really are in full on suck up mode to the Americans these days, aren’t they?

de Gaulle will be turning in his grave..

Evan P

no worse than us

David Steeper

No-one is ! lol

Dave Branney

Th – That’s a very good question. Our Allies aircraft may be able to land, but can they stop? There is nearly 900ft of deck/runway to land on before you hit the ramp. I’m pretty sure that both QE and PoW will not be fitted with arrestor wires, however I’m not sure if they won’t be fitted with an arrestor barrier. For instance what if a F35 has a lift fan problem whilst out of range of land e.g. lift fan door won’t open. will the pilot elect to eject and waste £135 million worth of tax payers money or… Read more »

Alan Reid

Great post, Dave ….. one of the advantages of using STOBAR is the operator can dispense with the cost and complexity of catapults; the main disadvantage is probably in an aircraft’s reduced operational range and payload.

Dave Branney

Just read that the Typhoon has a minimum take-off distance of 300m and landing distance of 700m. It didn’t say at what weight the aircraft needed to be to make these distances. Therefore, looking at the dimensions of QE, it may be feasible, especially with the ramp assistance. Worth a thought!