A French Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft conducts touch and go landings aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a coalition training exercise. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility after a scheduled five month deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and maritime security operations. (Photo: U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Dasbach/Released)
06 June 2010, ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea -- As part of interoperability operations with the French Navy, a maintenance crew for the French aircraft Rafale F3 performed a jet engine swap-out on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) June 4.
The Rafale, a fourth generation fighter jet capable of performing both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions embarked aboard CVN Charles de Gaulle (R 91), was conducting carrier qualifications on board Truman.
"The French have conducted many carrier qualifications (CQs) with U.S. aircraft carriers in the past. However, this is the first time that an engine swap-out with a foreign navy has been done on a U.S. carrier," said Cmdr. Tim Hill, the VFA-32 executive officer and air wing liaison for French interoperability exercises. "This is a big step in working towards the ability to operate a French squadron on a U.S. carrier."
According to French Navy Cmdr. Henri Mahe, the chief maintenance officer for Charles de Gaulle, the Rafale was specifically designed for performance and for efficient maintenance. The seven-man French navy maintenance team from the Rafale squadron 12F completed the engine swap-out in three hours.
Hundreds of Truman service members transiting the hangar bay stopped to take photos and to see the Rafale up close.
Among the onlookers was Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Heather Martinez, who was standing watch in Truman's primary flight control tower when the Rafale landed. Martinez stated she was impressed by the maneuverability of the aircraft and by the ease with which the jet was recovered.
"We followed the same procedures we do when recovering our own aircraft," said Martinez. "It went very smoothly."
U.S. and French service members were quick to point out the similarities between how the two navies operate, including using the same color-coding scheme to distinguish roles on the flight deck. The only difference in the flight deck jersey color scheme between the two navies is the significance of the color purple; for the U.S. Navy the color indicates the refueling team, for the French, it signifies the presence of the priest.
"We were surprised when we saw so many purple shirts on the flight deck," said Mahe.
For Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, the five-day interoperability exercises between Charles de Gaulle and Truman and the engine swap-out are a natural progression in a relationship between two allies. He recalled conducting operations with French aircraft carrier CV Foch (R99), and serving as a junior officer in an A-7 Corsair squadron with a French aviator.
"It is important to train with our partners. They are a great navy and the better we get at working together, the more effective we are as warfighters," said Driscoll.
Truman deployed May 21 as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG)in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. HSTCSG includes Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CCSG) 10, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW) 3, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 26 and German Frigate FGS Hessen (F221).