USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) cooperated with the French Navy May 21, as French pilots landed on the flight deck to work on their carrier qualifications.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us because it's a refresher for the pilot and also proved the compatibility of the French planes and the U.S. carriers," said French Navy Capt. Patrick Zimmermann, the commander of the French air group attached to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91).
France's navy has worked with the U.S. to practice the coordination of joint maritime security operations during the last six years, and this is the first time a French plane has landed on Truman.
"In 2002 during the beginning of the Afghanistan conflict when we were with the war group of the Stennis [USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)], we did some cross decks with E-2s," Zimmermann said. "Last year was the first time we experienced some traps on the Enterprise [USS Enterprise (CVN 65)] in July 2007 with the Rafale. The Rafale is a swing barrel airplane like the F-18... [performing the functions of] fighter, attack and air defense."
During the exercise, French pilots accumulated six traps with two Rafales and one E-2C making two traps each. A third Rafale made 13 touch-and-go landings to test how well French planes could handle the stresses of landing on Truman's flight deck, explained Zimmermann.
"What they were doing was trying to test the impact of our carrier on their type of aircraft such as the landing gear and different stresses on the aircraft," said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Shulman, one of the ship's carrier air group landing signal operators. "That way, they can take a look at when they operate with us this summer, how it's going to affect their aircraft."
With the Charles de Gaulle currently in the ship yards in Toulon, France, Zimmermann noted this is the first time his pilots have conducted carrier landings in almost a year.
Shulman and Lt. Cmdr. Greg Provencher, also a carrier air group landing signal operator, traveled to Landivisiau, a French naval air base, in Brittany, France. There, they observed the capabilities of the French E-2Cs and Rafales to ensure they would be able to successfully land on Truman.
"We went up there primarily to watch their planes land," Sulman said. "One of the prerequisites of them coming out here, was that we'd get a chance to go out there and see what the performance of their aircraft was.
"They brought their guys aboard, and everyone met their counterpart. The French shooters were talking to the American shooters and everyone worked together," said Shulman. "If you looked at this evolution a couple weeks or a month ago, you'd have thought it would be more difficult than it actually was; but, it wasn't difficult because there was a lot of planning."
In July, the French air group is scheduled to conduct flight operations during a joint task force exercise with USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and Carrier Strike Group 8, explained Zimmermann.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.