Defense

February 3, 2014

U.S., French navies conclude combined operations

Chief Gunner’s Mate James Bangert, left, inspects the weapons of French sailors, assigned to the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team aboard the French destroyer Jean de Vienne (D 643), during a combined VBSS exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). Mason is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

GULF OF OMAN – The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) and French Navy Task Force 473 concluded five weeks of combined carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility Feb 2.

The two strike groups began conducting integrated operations Dec. 26 in the Gulf of Oman and have operated together in the northern Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf to enhance regional maritime security and stability.

Ships participating in the combined operations included USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), and guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and USS Mason (DDG 87), all assigned to HST CSG. French ships included French aircraft carrier and Task Force 473 flagship FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), destroyers FS Forbin (D 620) and FS Jean de Vienne (D 643) and replenishment oiler FS Meuse (A 607).

“We executed a wide array of operations together with the Charles de Gaulle strike group,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. “We conducted combined flight operations from both the Truman and the Charles de Gaulle as well as carrier landing qualifications on both aircraft carriers.”

Lt. Cmdr. Rob Littman, an F/A-18 pilot assigned to the “Ragin Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron 37, is a U.S. Navy pilot who had the opportunity to land on Charles de Gaulle.

“Landing on the Charles DeGaulle was a terrific experience,” said Littman. “It was remarkable how similar it was to landing on the Truman. The French were extremely professional and the transition was seamless.”

Capt. Bob Roth, Truman’s commanding officer, said it was a unique experience being able to execute flight operations with jets and pilots from the French carrier.

“Planning and conducting actual missions together in this region brought our two fighting units closer together,” said Roth. “Our carrier aviation cultures are very similar, so the mutual real-world missions were executed using familiar tactics, but with a unique mix of platforms. Carrier Air Wing 3 Hornets and Rhinos flew seamlessly from Charles de Gaulle, just as the Rafales and Super Etendards landed and launched effortlessly from Truman. We are a good team and I look forward to the next opportunity to operate with our trusted French allies.”

Sweeney said operations weren’t limited to just the aircraft carriers.

French and American flight deck crew members talk during a break in flight operations aboard the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91). The Charles de Gaulle, flagship for Task Force 473, is conducting operations with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

“We conducted helicopter deck landing qualifications on our smaller ships. We executed boarding exercises, live-fire gunnery exercises, air defense exercises and combat search and rescue training – all types of missions we could be called upon to do at any moment. We even executed what we call a “shotgun swap,” which had the Forbin providing actual air defense control for Truman and the Gettysburg providing the same defense for Charles de Gaulle.”

Sweeney highlighted that the combined operations not only improved interoperability between the French and U.S. navies, but they also provided reassurance to regional partners.

“These operations were designed to enhance our levels of cooperation and interoperability,” he said. “Just as importantly though, it helps promote long-term regional stability and through our continuous presence, we build trust and confidence throughout the region.”

Capt. Bill Combes, HST CSG chief of staff, echoed the significance of conducting the combined operations in the region.

“Regional stability and these cooperative relationships both contribute to safeguarding the region’s vital links to the global economy,” said Combes.

Personnel from most of the U.S. and French ships also had the opportunity to visit other ships to meet with counterparts and learn how they do their jobs on their respective ships.

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Kathryn Bustos, spent three days aboard the French carrier.

“The [French] sailor I was partnered with was the equivalent to a U.S. Navy electronics technician,” said Bustos. “We repaired hydra radios and headphones worn by French sailors on the flight deck and performed maintenance on other electronic equipment together.”

Bustos said it was an experience she would remember forever.

“It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” she said. “I met people aboard Charles de Gaulle that I will keep in touch with even after our deployment and joint operations are finished. The French sailors were very welcoming and friendly.”




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