VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — French aviators are now in Hampton Roads to train with the U.S. Navy.
27 pilots from the French Navy are conducting air–to–air and air–to–ground training at local installations including Naval Air Station Oceana and Naval Station Norfolk.
An alliance spanning centuries is being put into practice.
Captain James McCall, Commander of Carrier Air Wing 8, said, “This is an exercise that’s been about a year in the making, but an alliance that’s been 240 years in the making.”
For the first time in 10 years, air squadrons from the U.S. Navy and French Navy are training together.
“Operating with another nation that you don’t get a chance to see everyday, there may be some things that you take away in the way you do your daily business,” McCall said. “What operating with the French allows us to do is bring on a long-term partner and prepare ourselves so we have interoperability between our two forces, should we need their assistance in any contingency operation.”
U.S. Navy officials announced the training earlier this year, noting that the French pilots would also be training aboard the USS George H.W. Bush for around two weeks.
France’s lone aircraft carrier, Charles De Gaulle, is undergoing a mid-life overhaul at the moment.
“To improve our skills with the U.S. Navy, to improve our inter-operability with the CAG 8 aircrafts, and also to practice some operations from a U.S. ship,” said French Air Wing Commander Marc. “Operating and taxing an aircraft on the deck is something really difficult and dangerous for the pilots in the jets but also for the people on the deck.”
While their main focus is training, the pilots have been able to explore the area, reflecting on the history that brought these two countries together centuries ago.
“Last week I was in Yorktown on the battlefield, visiting Jamestown, Williamsburg,” said Marc. “It’s very interesting to see all those things that we are seeing in history book.”
Officials say the language barrier has been tough, but the French pilots trained in American flight schools, so that makes things a little bit easier. They will be in the U.S. until the end of May.