March 25, 2020 (Google Translation) – On March 19, 20 and 21, pilots of the French Navy belonging to the on-board air group (GAé) carried out a series of interactions with the Danish, Dutch and Swedish air forces, over the North Sea.
The Foch mission led by the carrier strike group formed in Task Force 473 around the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle continues its operations to secure European maritime and territorial approaches and to cooperate with foreign allied forces. On patrol in the North Sea to control the airspace and protect European interests in the area, the GAN carried out interactions with the Danish, Dutch and Swedish allies in its area of operations.
For three days, the pilots carried out several air combat simulations in different formats, also training air traffic controllers, aeronautical tacticians, Combat Vessel Operations Centers and air and land staffs in high tactical scenarios intensity.
On March 19, in Danish airspace, two Rafale navies clashed with two Dutch F-16s guided by Dutch land-based air traffic controllers. It was then four Rafale marine who were given the task of protecting the carrier strike group attacked by four Gripen fighter planes from the Swedish air forces. The French planes were then guided by the air defense frigate (FDA) Chevalier Paul who assumed the role of ACU ( air control unit ), unit responsible for guiding and transmitting the flight information necessary to the pilots to carry out their mission. Swedish fighters were guided by an E2C-Hawkeye from the French airborne group (GAé).
The following day, the level of training increased for the pilots of the French Navy and their Rafale Marine who were ordered to attack four Swedish Gripen who fictitiously threatened the carrier strike group. Aircraft from both nations were guided in their mission by Swedish air traffic controllers. The Danish air forces then relayed their Scandinavian partners, with two F-16s supported by two Rafale marine and having for ACU the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle . They then faced in aerial combat two opposing Rafale navies guided by a French E2C-Hawkeye , previously spotted by the Caïman marine helicopter of the multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Brittany.The helicopter, which operated as SNOOPER, was thus responsible for finding and then designating a target for the hunters so that the latter would hire it.
SNOOPER’s role: identifying the target so that it can be engaged
Taking off an hour before the hunters, the Caïman marine helicopter establishes the surface situation in the area and then searches for its target. When this is spotted, the crew transmits the first elements of position to the aircraft carrier so that the strike consisting of fighter planes, in this case four Rafale marine and F-16, knows the location of their target before takeoff.
Depending on the threat, the Marine Cayman adopts a discreet behavior to avoid the multiple air and surface threats posed by frigates and enemy fighter planes patrolling the area. Once the contact is held, the helicopter descends at low altitude in order to identify targets using its FLIR ( Forward Looking Infra-Red ) sensor . He then guides the hunters so that they can engage the target discreetly.
Once the engagement is complete, the Caiman marine performs a report using its sensors (FLIR, RADAR, electronic passive watch and photos) in order to confirm or not the success of the mission.
High-level interaction for Rafales marine alongside their allies and regional partners
These interactions ended on March 21 with a final tactical exercise between two Danish F-16s guided by the FDA Chevalier Paul , required to deal with the aggression of two French Rafale naval group Rafale and whose role as air traffic controller was provided by a GAé E2C-Hawkeye.
The French pilots unanimously praised the quality and professionalism of the Danish, Dutch and Swedish pilots, as well as the excellent coordination between partners, both in the preparation and execution phases. Lieutenant (Navy) Thomas, Rafale pilot in the 12F flotilla who participated in the exercise with the Swedish pilots attests: “The level of tactical coordination was very high, our limits were put to the test, and them as we have learned a lot from these high level exercises. The fact that we work on the same tactical bases, with the same documentation, facilitates cooperation and interoperability. We came out particularly experienced in these interactions and significantly improved our mutual knowledge and our ability to operate together. ”
These three days of high-intensity tactical air-maritime maneuvers will have made it possible to strengthen the interoperability of the airborne group with the Danish, Dutch and Swedish air forces, with the aim of working together to protect European approaches. The GAN thus improves its knowledge and appreciation of the situation in areas of strategic importance in the Atlantic and the North Sea and reaffirms its commitment to guarantee freedom of action and movement with its northern European allies, while standing ready, tomorrow, to engage alongside these allies in theaters of operations.