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Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

Gerald R. Ford Welcomes French Armaments Procurement Agency Aboard during ISE 18

by USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Public Affiars
29 April 2021 French Maj. Gen. Nicolas Hué, head of management unit, mission and support aircrafts, French Armaments Procurement Agency (DGA) and Rear Adm. Eric Malbrunot, deputy chief of naval operations for plans and programs for the French Navy embarked USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) with members of their staff for an overnight embark during Ford’s final independent steaming event (ISE 18) of post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T), Apr. 23-24.
The visit was an opportunity for French DGA executive leadership to observe Ford’s electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and advanced arresting gear (AAG) in operation, to enable France to refine the design of the Future French Carrier (PANG), slated to be operational in 2038. Their arrival to and departure from the ship via a C-2A Greyhound attached to the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 marked the first French arrested landing and catapult launch with EMALS and AAG. 
“I love any opportunity to showcase our mighty warship and this fine crew, but this visit was especially beneficial to the future of naval aviation, as our French allies were able to observe operations on par with what CVNs do during workups and training at sea,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer. “Their ability to get first-hand experience with our systems, and speak to our technicians will pay huge dividends as we work together in decades to come.”
While onboard the group toured over 15 spaces and had the opportunity to observe day and night cyclic flight operations. Many of the spaces toured showcased Ford’s 23 new technologies to include the AAG control room, EMALS maintenance work station, weapons handling transfer area, vertically integrated stores elevator, and Ford’s unique flight deck design.
“The visit to USS Ford enabled the French acquisition agency, DGA, and the French Navy to see both the incorporation of EMALS and AAG into a new carrier design, and the preparation for the integration of the upcoming E-2D Advanced Hawkeye,” said Hué. “The new EMALS and AAG will require less manning and maintenance and will induce less stress on the aircrafts. The E-2D, for which France has signed the letter of agreement at the end of last year, will be the key asset for the interoperability of our two navies.”
Hué continued, “equally as important, we were able to see numerous design improvements on Ford, which will be of interest for our design process for the Future French Carrier."
Throughout the visit the DGA group asked at length about Ford’s experience and lesson’s learned during PDT&T and gained extensive feedback on flight operations, system mechanics, and Ford’s optimized manning. According to Rear Adm. Craig Clapperton, commander, carrier strike group (CSG) 12, the visit was a good opportunity to have meaningful dialogue about U.S. and France’s past experiences in the Navy, and future integration with aircraft carriers and aircraft.  
“Military-to-military engagements mutually strengthen our force, enhance readiness and promote interoperability,” said Clapperton. “I am confident that procurement of EMALS and AAG by France and the adoption of a layout similar to Ford-class carrier flight deck would enhance both nations capability to integrate during all operations to include: crisis management, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping.” 
For decades, the bond between France and the United States has made one of the strongest alliances in history. Malbrunot agreed that DGA’s military familiarization embark opportunity will increase our collective capabilities. 
“France and the United States remain the only two nations who operate nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and this visit was crucial for us to maintain that high level of interoperability for future combined operations,” said Malbrunot.
USS Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier, and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. The ship is underway for the final independent steaming event of her PDT&T phase of operations.
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