As the French Navy (Marine Nationale – MN) aircraft carrier, the “Charles de Gaulle,” enters the last months of refit with Naval Group (more details on the refit here) 350 crew members from the MN naval aviation (Groupe Aérien embarqué – GAe) have been undergoing operational training in the US in anticipation for the return of their ship in early 2019. This is known as Operation “Chesapeake.”
The first phase of the operation, which ran from 5 April to 8 May, took place in Virginia: the RAFALE Marine GAe trained with the Carrier Wing 8 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, while the E-2C HAWKEYE GAe was stationed at NAS Chambers. After over 20 days of deployment, 190 sorties (360 hours of flying) were carried out to train on a wide range of missions: combat, zone defence, ship attack and joint operations. The training also included intense training for all the technicians that will be onboard the “Charles de Gaulle” and will make sure that the operations run smoothly.
The second phase of Operation “Chesapeake” began on 8 May and will end this coming Friday (18 May). After one and a half year without being embarked on an aircraft carrier, the MN’s 12 RAFALE Marine and HAWKEYE (which have been flown from France for the purpose of this operation) are scheduled to execute, off the coast of Norfolk and onboard US aircraft carrier USS “George H.W. Bush,” as many as 180 sorties. Again, the nature and complexity of the training will continue to increase until the last day to ensure full interoperability.
In total, the MN scheduled 430 RAFALE Marine flights and 40 HAWKEYE flights over the seven weeks of training.
N.B. Incidentally, Dr. Alix Valenti, Editor in Chief of Naval Forces, met MN personel on training on top of the Empire State Building in New York City last April.