The combat backbone for decades of French Naval Aviation, the Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard, made its final carrier launch of its service carreer last week when aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle returned home in the port of Toulon on Thursday 17 March 2016.
Being replaced by the sleeker and modern Dassault Rafale M, the Super Étendard has been protecting French interests overseas ever since it entered service in June 1978. Keeping the value of the naval air asset somewhat up-to-date, 48 of this Marine strike aircraft underwent extensive modifications in the 1990s and early 2000s. The adjustments included a new on board computer and a new radar, heads-on-throttle-and-stick controls (HOTAS), a new electronic counter measures suite, night vision goggles, a laser designator pod, a reconnaissance pod and air-frame life-extension.
Nuclear weapons and Exocet
France kept the aircraft at hand for any thinkable action, including the release of free-fall nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles. Despite being in numerous conflicts on behalf of La France, the Super Étendard’s most impressive action was done by only four of them flying for the Argentine Navy. Armed with the Exocet missiles they crippled the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield and sank the chartered British merchant vessel Atlantic Conveyor during the 1982 Falklands / Malvinas War.
A total of 71 of 85 built Super Étendards were delivered to the French navy since the first flight of the type in 1974. Only one was lost in battle, downed by an Iranian F-4 Phantom II in 1984 on loan to the Iraqi Air Force. After its full shore-based retirement later this year in France, only 10 Super Étendards will soldier on, flying missions every now and then for the Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina.
NATO maritime patrol aircraft of France and Canada have come to the rescue of the Royal Air Force and are hunting a Russian sub off the coast of Scotland, according to some British sources on Monday 23 November 2015.
The Russian submarine was apparently detected a number of days ago just north of the United Kingdom. With the RAF having no anti-submarine capacity of its own, the UK Ministry of Defence called Paris and Ottawa. Two French Navy Dassault Atlantique 2 and a Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed CP-140 Polaris are now forming the make-shift airborne maritime patrol fleet, operating out of RAF Lossiemouth.
London officially acknowledges the presence of “foreign aircraft” at Lossiemouth, but does not comment in length on their operations. Royal Navy sources however have confirmed the involvement of at least one frigate and a hunter-killer submarine in offshore operations in the area without releasing details.
Boeing P-8 Poseidon
If the NATO aircraft are indeed actively involved in “the hunt for Red November”, it marks the third time in 12 months this happens. Relieve is on the way, the Ministry of Defence just announced the purchase of nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft today. But since it will take a few years for the production to be done, NATO will likely have to step in again to serve Her Majesty’s once tough air weapon.
The French armed forces are keeping up their combined force fighting the so-called Islamic State rebels in Iraq (and Syria), called group Daech in French.
During the last week of January the French Air Force rotated three of its nine Rafale fighter jets at Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates. During their six-hour non-stop flight the planes from squadron 1/7 “Provence” from Base Aerienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan (1 jet) and 2/30 “Normandie-Niemen” (2 jets) were accompoanied by a Boeing C-135FR from 2/91 “Bretagne” from BA125 Istres. The tanker refuelled the jets three times during the flight. The Rafales relief the triplet sent as reinforcement on 5 October.
Nine Rafales, six Mirage 2000D (based in Jordan), a C-135FR and a Aéronaval Dassault Atlantique 2 are deployed to the Gulf region. Moreover the French Navy air-defence frigate Jean Bart is deployed with the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Battle Group in the Persian Gulf. Six hundred French military personnel are engaged in what the French call Operation Chammal, but the Americans have named Inherent Resolve. The French launched their ops on 19 September 2014, upon request by the Iraqi government.
To the sun and beyond. Nice images released by the French Ministry of Defence shows French Naval Aviation Dassault Super Étendards strike aircraft on board the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, heading towards the Indian Ocean and Saudi Arabia.
The battle group Arromanches, built around the carrier, just crossed the Suez Canal on 26 January and continued in the Red Sea for the Indian Ocean. Charles de Gaulle is escorted by the air-defence frigate Chevalier Paul, the Royal Navy anti-submarine frigate HMS Kent, the oil tanker Meuse and an unnamed French Navy nuclear attack submarine.
On the agenda are military exercises with Saudi Arabia. The group already practiced military ops against the naval and air forces of Italy and Greece while sailing through the Mediterranean.
During its cruise group Arromanches will go through various scenarios, including fleet air defence, long distance attack by the air wing’s aircraft and anti-submarine protection.
The Super Étendards are in the autumn of their service life, as the Aéronavale plans to retire the type in 2016.
The French Navy’s NH90 helicopter fleet strength is halfway. Just before the end of December 2014 the thirteenth of 27 ordered Caïman – as they are called by the Aéronavale – was delivered by the European NHIndustries consortium.
Caïmans will serve two main roles within the French Navy: 14 will be configured as anti-submarine warfare chopper, the other 13 will feature a rear loading ramp and are to be deployed in the search-and-rescue, medevac and air assault / counter-insurgency plus anti-ship role. The ASW versions replace the Westland Lynx, the 13 non-ASW versions take over the tasks of the the Sud-Aviation SA321 Super Frelons that have served since 1966.
The ASW versions will have the option to be armed with MU90 torpedoes, plus a fire-support gun in the side doors. The French Navy hopes to equip the non-ASW versions with an air-to-surface missile from the year 2021.