As reported by Naval News, the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its strike group (CSG) set sails last week for the “Mission Clemenceau 22” deployment. The French CSG will conduct “tri carrier operations” with the Italian Navy (Marina Militare)’s Cavour CSG and the U.S. Navy’s Truman CSG.
According to our French Navy source, the carrier operations between the French and Americans will take place in the Eastern Mediterranean in February/March and will see the following take place:
- Combined sea control
- Combined power projection
- C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) data sharing
All this is in line with the Strategic Interoperability Framework which was recently inked by the US and French navies. Naval News was explained that a particular focus will be placed on the data and information sharing because the U.S. Navy uses some very stringent encryption systems and both navies will make sure that such encrypted data can be read and accessed by the French.
E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft aboard Charles de Gaulle
In addition, the maneuvers should see the launch and recovery of French Navy aircraft aboard USS Harry S. Truman and the launch and recovery of U.S. Navy aircraft aboard Charles de Gaulle. In particular, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft will trap and be launched for the first time from the French Navy aircraft carrier and will be tested with the French CSG (including possibly the sharing of tactical data between the aircraft and the French staff aboard the carrier). E-2Ds from the “Seahawks” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 126 are currently deployed aboard the Truman.
For the record, the French Ministry of Armed Forces announced one year ago that it had approved the acquisition of three E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The contract was officially awarded in December 2021.
Contacted by Naval News to comment on these upcoming trials, the E-2D program director at the French defense procurement agency (DGA) explained:
“It is not expected that the DGA will participate in this first landing [of an E-2D aboard Charles de Gaulle] because it is not a flight test. Launches and recoveries are indeed planned from an operational point of view, and have been the subject of a specific authorization by the DGA, as is done regularly for foreign aircraft”.
-E-2D program director at DGA
The French program director confirmed that the delivery of the three aircraft is set for 2028. They will become operation in 2030 following some localization work (which consists mostly in the integration of a specific computer which will guarantee the system’s autonomous upgrade capability).
To date, 51 aircraft have been delivered to the U.S. Navy and 3 to Japan. Naval News understands that the E-2D production line (located in St Augustine, Florida) shutdown will start in 2023 and final U.S. Navy E-2Ds will roll off the production line in 2026. Contacted by Naval News, the E-2/C-2 Airborne Command & Control Systems Program Office (PMA-231) confirmed that unless follow-on orders by the U.S. Navy or export customers are placed, France would be getting the last aircraft ever produced:
“As of right now, the French E-2Ds would be the last aircraft produced.”
-E-2/C-2 Airborne Command & Control Systems Program Office (PMA-231)
With the above information in mind, it would seem logical that the French aircraft come in the latest available standard, known as DSSC 4, 5 or 6. DSSC stands for “Delta System/Software Configuration Build”. However DSSC 4, 5 and 6 have mostly to do with Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), two features that the French Navy will not be using. The French are developing their own CEC equivalent known as “veille cooperative navale” which we covered in the past. As about which DSSC the French Navy will be getting, PMA-231 said this question would be best answered by the French Ministry of Defence. The E-2D program director at DGA told Naval News:
“The version of the French aircraft will benefit from the latest software version available at the date of the detailed design review. This will be the same version as the U.S. Navy version, without the non-exportable capabilities. The precise DSSC has not been determined at this stage.”
-E-2D program director at DGA
Last but not least, the French program director said:
“To date, the program is running smoothly, in close collaboration with the American team. French teams are also working on the design of the francization (localization).”
The French Aircraft are set to feature aerial refueling capability.
Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman announced on 21 January that it successfully delivered the 51st U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye production aircraft, AA-52. The company said in a photo release: “The aircraft represents the last to be delivered under the Multi-Year Procurement (MYP) 1 contract. AA-52 is equipped with the Delta System/Software Configuration (DSSC) Build 3, which provides an additional leap in operational effectiveness and technology for the E-2D with the incorporation of aerial refueling and a dwell-based tracker. MYP 2 deliveries will begin this year, with increasing, game-changing capability enhancements for the Navy and joint force to outpace evolving threats.”