USS Enterprise, the US Navy's oldest carrier, recently in-chopped into the Mediterranean while on its latest deployment. As part of its operations, cross-deck flight operations with French Rafael fighters were conducted, a rarity in these days of specialized aircraft and flight ops. Narrative comments are from an email received from a deployed Enterprise officer who participated in the events:
"We trapped two French Rafale fighters on board the Enterprise today, first time ever that they have trapped. They did touch and go's off other carriers before, but this was the first time to trap. They shut down, met with ENT heavies, French DVs (distinguished visitors), including one with 5 stars.
At the catapult, again a first, they took off with no issues. Then did a spectacular formation fly-by at deck level.
On-deck pics include side-by-side of Rafale on Cat 1 and F/A-18F Super Hornet on Cat 2. Another Rafale has just come off Cat 4 and is using afterburners on the climb-out. Their catapult procedure are a little different. They do wipeout checks before crossing the JBD; once in tension they just go straight to MIL power, salute, and launch. AB comes once down the cat. Note the moveable canards just aft of the canopy."
As a former catapult officer, I can attest how this would have generated a fair amount of interest from the air and flight-deck crews, if for nothing else than to be a break from the every-day monotony of launching flight operations. Having the French carrier Charles De Gaulle's catapult and arresting gear systems designed and installed by our NAVAIR guys and gals from Lakehurst, NJ helps in that the systems used by both French naval aircraft and our our aircraft are similar (if not almost identical).
Score a few points for combined interoperability! We've come close in recent years, at least with regards to joint aircraft naval flight operations - I've seen flight deck videos of a French F-8 Crusader do touch and go's on board USS John F Kennedy (our Landing Signal Officer call for the pilot to add a bit of power during the approach is "Power". The French call is "Moteur") and the Argentines bounced A-4 Skyhawks on the deck of USS Ronald Reagan a few years ago, but this is the first time I've seen actual traps and cats done in a long time. We scream about the aforementioned "interoperability" (or the capability of a piece of equipment/hardware/weapon/whatever to be able to function with different systems) in the halls of the Pentagon all the time - its nice to be able to see it executed on La pointe pointu du javelot again.