GULF OF OMAN Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) began combined operations with the French navy's Task Force 473 in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Dec. 29.
HST CSG, comprised of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56); and guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Hopper (DDG 70) and USS Mason (DDG 87); is operating with the French navy's Task Force 473 to enhance cooperation and interoperability in the region.
'This is a wonderful opportunity for our ships, Sailors and Marines to work together and gain a better understanding of each other,' said Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander, HST CSG. 'Our operations with Task Force 473 will increase both of our maritime capabilities while helping promote long-term stability in the region.'
The French ships include aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), destroyers FS Forbin (D 620) and FS Jean de Vienne (D 643) and replenishment oiler FS Meuse (A 607).
'This mission is a big challenge,' said Rear Adm. Eric Chaperon, commander, Task Force 473. 'France and the USA have been partners for a longtime, but with this new and rare opportunity to integrate two CSGs, our cooperation is becoming ever closer. All of our sailors are really proud to have a role to play in building the operational interoperability of our two nations.'
In addition to conducting combined maritime security operations, ships from the two navies have participated in a variety of training and operations together including visit, board, search and seizure training; live-fire gunnery exercises, small boat operations, deck-landing qualifications, underway replenishments, combat search and rescue training and air defense exercises. U.S. and French personnel have also traveled to visit counterparts on the other ships, sharing techniques and experiences.
'Not only is this a great opportunity to conduct operations with a close and trusted ally, this is a great time to learn from each other,' said Sweeney. 'There are a lot of similarities in the way we operate across the different platforms, but there are also some differences. Understanding those differences will make both of us better, stronger, and enable us to operate with each other, and with other navies, more effectively. Our presence goes a long way in reassuring our regional partners and allies.'
The commanding officers of both aircraft carriers also recognize the opportunity the two navies have to learn from each other.
'This mission is a decisive opportunity to share knowledge and build upon our friendship in order to be able to successfully handle future contingencies together,' said Capt. Pierre Vandier, commanding officer, FS Charles de Gaulle. It is also an opportunity to check our interoperability that allows a lot of common procedures and aircraft exchanges.'
Capt. Bob Roth, commanding officer, Harry S. Truman, fully appreciates the opportunity to work closely with a longtime partner.
'It's a rare and very fulfilling experience to sail alongside and operate closely with another aircraft carrier, especially a CVN from a navy with whom we have so many lasting personnel exchange programs,' he said. 'I think we're going to further develop our already deep trust and mutual operational understanding.'