The making of “Chesapeake 2018”
France has a single nuclear-powered aircraft carrier—the Charles de Gaulle—and one carrier air wing (CVW), composed of three Rafale-M fighter squadrons and one E-2C Hawkeye squadron. During the midlife update of the ship (known to her crew as “mother”) scheduled between February 2017 and July 2018, a major concern for the French Navy was maintaining the “savoir faire” of the French carrier strike group (CSG) gained during operational deployments in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. In 2016, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson offered his French counterpart, Chief of Staff of the French Navy Admiral Christophe Prazuck, a tremendous opportunity—train with a U.S. aircraft carrier and its CVW in spring 2018. Considering the demanding operational commitments of U.S. CSGs around the world, this generous offer confirmed that since the times of Lafayette, de Grasse, and Rochambeau both navies and nations have been bound by unwavering links.
1. The Battle of the Chesapeake was a crucial naval battle during the American Revolution on 5 September 1781. A British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves was prevented from reinforcing Yorktown by a French fleet led by Rear Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse. The result at Yorktown determined the outcome of the war and secured American independence.