Military Aviation

5 Aircraft Carriers to Operate Together in Europe for NATO Exercise: USS George H.W. Bush and USS Gerald R. Ford will exercise with HMS Queen Elizabeth, ITS Cavour and Charles de Gaulle

US Navy aircraft carriers USS George H.W. Bush and USS Gerald R. Ford will exercise with carriers from France, Italy and the UK as part of a joint operation across Europe meant to show NATO interoperability.

US Navy aircraft carriers USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will exercise with aircraft carriers from France, Italy and the UK as part of a joint operation across Europe meant to show NATO interoperability, the Pentagon announced on Nov. 17, 2022.

Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the two American carrier strike groups, their embarked air wings and escorts will be operating in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Mediterranean Sea along with the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), Italian carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550) and the French FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91.

“These operations present an opportunity for allied nations to coordinate critical combat power throughout the Euro-Atlantic area while showcasing NATO cohesion and interoperability,” Singh explained. “It is also an opportunity to test allied cooperation and to practice NATO’s deter and defend concepts across all geographic areas, operational domains and functional areas of the alliance.”

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

Singh referred questions about the joint operations to US European Command.

According to USNI News, the George H.W. Bush CSG replaced the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean in August. Before Truman returned home to Norfolk, Va., Bush and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) operated together briefly, the first time two US aircraft carriers were in the Mediterranean together in several years. Truman exercised with Charles de Gaulle and Cavour during its deployment.

As of Nov. 17 afternoon, Ford was off Portsmouth, England, according to local ship spotters.

According to a French news release, Charles de Gaulle departed France on Nov. 15 as part of Mission Antares. The mission includes 3,000 service members from France and partners.

As part of Mission Antares, the French carrier will operate with ships from the Hellenic, Italian and American navies, according to the release.

Queen Elizabeth has largely taken over the operations for HMS Prince of Wales (R09), which is undergoing a repair to its propulsion system, USNI News previously reported.

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Noteworthy, the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, flagship of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG), departed from Naval Station Norfolk on its first deployment to conduct operations and training exercises alongside NATO allies and partners throughout the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 4.

The US commands and units participating in the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) deployment include Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, USS Normandy (CG 60), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USNS Joshua Humpreys (T-AO 188), USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5), and USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753).

Aircraft squadrons participating in the GRFCSG deployment are:

  • Strike fighter squadrons VFA 213, VFA 31, VFA 37 and VFA 87.
  • Tactical electronics warfare squadron VAQ 142.
  • Carrier airborne early warning squadron VAW 124.
  • Fleet logistics support squadron VRC 40.
  • Helicopter maritime strike squadron HSM 70.
  • Helicopter sea combat squadron HSC 9.

“It’s an exciting time to lead the aviators of Carrier Air Wing Eight as we embark on Ford’s first deployment,” said Capt. Daryl Trent, Commander, Carrier Air Wing Eight, in a US Navy news release. “This group of individuals have worked so hard to prepare every aspect of the air wing to integrate with Ford’s new technologies and have done so with excellence. It’s also fitting that when USS Nimitz deployed for the first time in 1976, it was CVW-8 who was embarked. Now, in 2022, CVW-8 is again the first air wing to embark on this newest class of aircraft carriers.”

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and Armando Mancini via Wikipedia

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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