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France is sending 350 sailors and naval aviators to deploy with a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier this spring as their nuclear-powered carrier finishes scheduled maintenance, French officials told USNI News.
The April to May deployment will occur just before France’s aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) is expected to complete a major maintenance period which started in 2015. The aircrews will do carrier qualifications aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), but the intent is to accomplish more than qualifications or cross-deck operations, Capt. Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze, French Naval Attaché to the U.S. told USNI News.
“We want to demonstrate our ability to integrate with U.S. military services,” Roux de Luze said. “We want to show we do maintenance, demonstrate we can load weapons.”
French Navy Dassault Rafale M fighters and Northop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft will at first fly with U.S. airwings out of Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach. French sailors will work with their U.S. counterparts maintaining the aircraft, Rouz de Luze said. The unspecified French forces will then board Bush and operate as part of the air wing.