Yesterday evening, a French Navy Dassault Rafale ‘M’ (serial 41) diverted to LMML while conducting a routine aerial refuelling training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea to the East of Malta. The aircraft is currently embarked on the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle that recently left its home port in Toulon on deployment for exercise Clemenceau 22, which will last until April.
Accompanying the aircraft carrier in the task group are several French Navy ships including destroyer FS Forbin (D620), frigates FS Alsace (D656) and FS Normandie (D651), replenishment ship FS Marne (A630) and a nuclear attack submarine. Partner ships integrated into the group are U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71), Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Juan de Borbon (F102), Hellenic Navy frigate HS Adrias (F459) and Royal Moroccan Navy corvette Sultan Moulay Ismail (614). A Hellenic Navy submarine will also join the task force in the coming days.
The embarked air group aboard Charles De Gaulle includes 20 Rafale F3R fighters belonging to Flottilles 12F and 17F, two E-2C Hawkeyes Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft of Flottille 4F, 1 Dauphin helicopter and 1 Panther helicopter of Flottille 35F and 36F, respectively, and a NH90 NFH Caïman anti-submarine warfare helicopter of Flottille 31F. The NH90 (serial 24) also visited LMML yesterday evening, bringing a number of crew to fix the broken aerial refuelling receptacle on the Rafale that had caused it to divert to LMML.
Supporting rotary assets from foreign air arms also include a Belgian Air Component NH90 helicopter that is embarked on FS Forbin. Land-based fixed wing aircraft supporting the deployment are a French Navy Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and a U.S Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.