French Navy Aircraft, Crews Arrive in Virginia for Qualifications on U.S. Carrier
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — A group of Rafale strike fighters of the French Navy have begun to arrive at a naval air station (NAS) in Virginia to stage for upcoming carrier qualifications on board a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
Six Rafales arrived at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach on April 5, according to an email sent by aircraft spotters in the area. Six more Rafales were expected to arrive April 6, along with one E-2C Hawkeye radar warning aircraft.
The Rafales are assigned to 11, 12 and 17 Flotilles (squadrons), and the E-2C is assigned to 4 Flotille.
The French Navy pilots are in the United States to perform carrier takeoffs and landings to renew and maintain currency while their aircraft carrier, FS Charles DeGaulle, is in an 18-month refit. The French Navy is the only navy other than the U.S. Navy that still operates aircraft carriers equipped with catapults and arresting gear for tailhook aircraft.
After field carrier landing practice, the French aircraft will embark on USS George H.W. Bush for two weeks for joint carrier operations with the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing Eight.