NATO Flattop Interoperability

In the Med last week, three very different NATO Carrier Strike Groups got some important joint exercises while underway in the Ionian Sea. The ANTARES/Mare Aperto 22-2 exercise saw the George H.W. Bush CSG, the French de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG operate side-by-side and even do some cross-decking, something made easy as the de Gaulle uses the same CATOBAR system and methods as the U.S. while Cavour’s rotary aircraft and F-35s (at least in theory) can land on either. The “Plug and fight” capacity is more important than one would think.

From images and videos released, F-18s, Rafales, and C-2s conducted landings, launchings, and touch-and-goes across at least the French and U.S. carriers.

(Nov. 23, 2022) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Roberto Cerdas assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), directs a French Rafale fighter jet onto the catapult during multi-carrier operations between the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG), Charles de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG Nov. 23, 2022. The George H.W. Bush CSG is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Samuel Wagner)

A French Rafale fighter jet is launched off the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during multi-carrier operations between the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG), Charles de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG, Nov. 23, 2022. (U.S. Navy Courtesy photo)

A U.S. C-2 Greyhound COD on de Gaulle’s cat.

A U.S. F-18E trapping on de Gaulle.

There was also some swapping of escorts, with a U.S. DDG operating with the French and Italian forces separately, while the latter contributed tin cans to steam along with USS George H.W. Bush over the horizon.

“Opportunities for interoperability between forces and CSGs as a testament to the strength of our Alliance. Currently, we have Italian Frigates embedded with both the George H.W. Bush and French Strike groups participating alongside our Allies in their daily operations, and last month the Italian Navy fully integrated the Standing NATO Forces Group Two units into our major bi-annual fleet exercise Mare Aperto 22-2,” said Rear Adm. Vincenzo Montanaro, commander of Italian Maritime Forces and the Italian Carrier Strike Group, while aboard George H.W. Bush. “Our dedication to cross-training during both exercises and real-world operations demonstrates the Alliance’s collective resolve as well as our collective capacity as a NATO force.”

The French also operated with Greek land-based F-4Es, and have a great video of the Phantoms with de Gaulle in the background. If you don’t love Phantoms and flattops, why are you even alive?

For reference:

George H.W. Bush is the flagship of CSG-10 and the GHWBCSG. CSG-10 is comprised of George H.W. Bush, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, the Information Warfare Commander, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

The ships of DESRON-26 within CSG-10 are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119).

The squadrons of CVW-7 embarked aboard George H.W. Bush are the “Jolly Rogers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the “Pukin Dogs” of VFA-143, the “Bluetails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, the “Sidewinders” of VFA-86, the “Nighthawks” of VFA-136, the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, and the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46.

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