As part of the Chesapeake deployment, 350 sailors and 13 French Navy aircraft (twelve Rafale M and one Hawkeye) have arrived in Norfolk, in the United States.
This 6,500-kilometers transatlantic crossing was a first step for the sailors of the naval aviation group (Groupe Aéronaval). It required a long preparation because it is the first time that the French Navy deploys so many sailors and aircraft to the United States.
A large-scale deployment
In order to reach their temporary home base on American soil, Rafale Marine and Hawkeye embarked on simultaneous but distinct journeys:
-- the Northern route (via Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada), allowing the Hawkeye to refuel on the ground along its route;
-- the Southern route (with a stop-over in the Azores), comprising two groups of six Rafale Marine which were refueled in flight by French Air Force C-135FR tankers), and accompanied by a Falcon 50 Marine for Search And Rescue escort.
After several days and many hours of crossing, the crews were warmly welcomed by their US Navy brothers in arms. For the next seven weeks, French and American sailors will train together daily.
An in-flight exercise program from Oceana Naval Air Station (NAS) and aboard the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier will allow the French detachment to maintain its skills during the mid-life refit of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
Chesapeake, an unprecedented deployment of the airborne group
From April 3 to May 27, 2018, nearly 350 sailors of the air group from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have deployed to the United States to continue their operational training. This deployment, dubbed "Chesapeake" in reference to the battle of the Bay of the same name, aims to perfect and maintain the skills of French naval aviators as well as the interoperability capabilities between the Navy and the US Navy.