American, French, Italian aircraft carriers in Mediterranean work with each other’s fighter jets

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman passes Fort Monroe in 2016. (Randall Greenwell/Daily Press/TNS)
February 16, 2022

When the USS Harry S. Truman operated in a rare three-carrier exercise with French and Italian counterparts last week, its flight deck teams had a chance to test with planes they don’t usually see.

The Norfolk-based Truman, the new French carrier Charles de Gaulle and the Italian carrier Cavour, which operated in the Chesapeake last year learning the ropes on handling F-35s, each had a chance to launch and recover one another’s air wings when they teamed up after a major NATO exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Rear Adm. Curt Renshaw said.

Since the de Gaulle’s air wing flies Rafale M fighters, the Cavour the new F-35s and the Truman the Navy’s workhouse FA-18 Hornets, all three crews had a chance to try something new.

“To have the opportunity to launch, fly, and recover aircraft from one another’s carriers provides a unique, and valuable, capability,” Renshaw said. “The bridge and combat teams were in constant communication in order to execute the mission as planned.”

A key part of the exercise was to develop procedures for maneuver and communications based on standing NATO procedures, Renshaw said.

“Effectively working with our partners and allies in the region is the cornerstone of our operations” in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, he said.

It started well before the carriers and their strike groups joined up, since the planning stage gave the strike group staff and the sailors on the Truman and its group a chance to learn from their Italian and French allies, he said.

A focus on NATO operations, as well as working with other friendly nations, has been a major theme of the Truman group’s operations since it left Norfolk in December.

Truman’s air wing has worked with air and naval air forces from more than 20 countries, he said.

A recent visit from Albania’s Prime Minister was a chance for some diplomatic work, too.

“The more we train and operate shoulder-to-shoulder the stronger we are together,” he said.

The Truman and most of the strike group have been staying the Mediterranean for a longer time than usual at Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s direction as tensions between Russian and Ukraine continue to rise.

Truman’s presence in the Mediterranean Sea is an element in NATO’s response to Russian threats to Ukraine, especially because it operated earlier this month under Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO control, as part of the alliance’s Neptune Strike 2022 exercise, the alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said.

The Cavour also participated in that exercise before it and the Truman joined the Charles de Gaulle for their three-group exercise.

Besides the Truman, the nine squadrons of Naval Air Station Oceana-based Carrier Air Wing1 and Norfolk-based destroyers USS Gonzalez, USS Bainbridge, USS Gravely and the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen operated with the French and Italian groups. At the same time, the Truman group’s Norfolk-based cruiser USS San Jacinto, Norfolk-based destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and Mayport, Florida-based USS Jason Dunham are currently operating in the Middle East.


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