Two groups of ships assembled around aircraft carriers from the navies of the US and France gathered in the Red Sea for a three-nation passing exercise (PASSEX) on April 15.
France’s Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group, composed of Marine Nationale’s FS Charles De Gaulle (R 91), F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Forbin (D 620), and the Royal Danish Navy Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Niels Juel (F 363), joined the John C. Stennis carrier strike group, composed of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74), for dissimilar aircraft training, a nighttime gun exercise, a liaison officer exchange program, and a photo exercise.
“French Rafale aircraft and American F/A-18 Super Hornets conducted air-to-air combat and tanking (refueling) training,” said Cmdr. Desobry Bowens, Carrier Air Wing Nine’s operation officer (CAG-Ops) embarked aboard the John C. Stennis. “The Rafales also performed touch-and-go procedures on the John C. Stennis’ flight deck.”
The ships and their crews were put through several integrated training events.
“We did a liaison officer exchange, where their CAG-Ops and admiral spent time aboard the John C. Stennis, and our admiral went to the Charles De Gaulle,” said Bowens. “We also exchanged landing signal officers from both aircraft carriers to cross-train. Both carriers have similar aircraft landing equipment.”
The John C. Stennis also provided targets for French Rafales to strafe at during the nighttime GUNEX.
“This PASSEX with John C. Stennis strike group, a few days only after entering the Red Sea, emphasizes Charles de Gaulle’s come back at its highest level,” said Capt. de Saint Germain, commanding officer of Charles de Gaulle. “That kind of interaction is the best way to increase our interoperability with our American ally.”
The PASSEX is the second time US and French assets have been cooperating in the US 5th Fleet area of operations this year. In January, USS John C. Stennis and French destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) cooperated for a prolonged period of interoperability training.