The U.S. Navy held a Rhino rendezvous with a French flattop in the Mediterranean Sea Tuesday.
Two U.S. aviators flying the single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet — a strike fighter nicknamed the “Rhino” because of a protrusion on the front portion of the plane’s radome — conducted touch-and-go landings on the French carrier and completed one trap and recovery each.
Four French aviators flying Rafale fighters and an E-2C Hawkeye also performed touch-and-go landings and traps and recoveries on Ike.
Helicopters were used to shuttle personnel and parts between both carriers during the exercise.
This is the first Navy convoy exercise in the Atlantic Ocean since 1986.
French and American forces have a history of working together. In 2014, F/A-18E Super Hornets landed on the Charles de Gaulle while it operated in the Persian Gulf with the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.
More than two dozen French aviators and 350 sailors visited Hampton Roads in spring 2018 for the “Chesapeake Deployment” while France’s only aircraft carrier completed an 18-month midlife overhaul.
The French sailors — who are allowed to wear beards, a perennial issue for their American counterparts — trained at Naval Air Station Oceana before heading out on the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush.
Tuesday’s dual operations showed off the capabilities gained by working closely, naval leaders said.
“As a result of regular exchanges and cooperative training on a routine basis, our interoperability has advanced to an extremely high level,” Vice Adm. Laurent Isnard, who commands the Mediterranean for the French, said in a prepared statement. “Our navies are truly plug-and-fight, especially in the Mediterranean but also throughout the world.”
In 2016, Ike and Charles de Gaulle conducted joint operations from the Mediterranean Sea to support operations in Iraq. Last year, the French flattop operated with aircraft carrier John C. Stennis from the Red Sea.
Ike deployed from Naval Station Norfolk last month, leaving for the cruise immediately after completing pre-deployment certification.
This story has been updated to reflect that there have been previous landings on the French aircraft carrier by U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.