The low deterrent effect of the sanctions against Iran adopted by the UN Security Council Wednesday, June 9 were manifest from the moment they attained Russian and Chinese endorsement. But its passage in New York found US and French bombers in the middle of a unique exercise simulating a marine force attack on ground targets with close air support.
US and French bombers took off from each other's aircraft carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman and the Charles de Gaulle, while the British planes flew in from their bases in England. Together, they practiced their strike capabilities in a real war. The Canjuers training facility near Toulon stood in for an Iranian target.
Rear Admiral Henri Bobin, commander of the French Fleet Air Arm, said the Charles de Gaulle is seen as a potential deterrent to Iran.
Thursday June 10, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Defense Minister Hervé Morin were scheduled to visit the French carrier just after it had spent 15 months in dry dock having its nuclear propulsion system refitted and other upgrades performed. French officers say the Charles de Gaulle' is now "more compatible" with US carriers the adaptation of its steam catapult launch and other systems for take-off and landing.
And indeed, debkafile's military sources report, French Navy F3 Rafale fighters capable of carrying nuclear-tipped ASMP/A missiles flew in from the French carrier and performed touch-and-go landings on the vast deck of the Truman, while American F/A 18/FSuper Hornets performed the same exercises on the French carrier.
In another part of the exercise, American crews for the first time flew French Super Etendard fighters, taking off and landing on the Charles de Gaulle, while French pilots landed American Super Hornets on the decks of the Truman before taking off again.
They also flew "intercepts" against each to test their systems and diversify their pilots' skills.
The simulated landing of a French Rafale F3 landing minus one engine on the Truman deck Friday, June 4, was a dramatic moment: the US carrier's workshops handled the replacement of the "damaged" engine with a new one – the first time that American mechanics had performed a job this complicated on a foreign aircraft, using tools sent over from the Charles de Gaulle.
US Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, commander of the American strike force, said the Rafale engine refit was a proof of concept intended to test the technical details of moving the French strike fighter around and below deck "in the precise choreography of carrier operations." This was in keeping with the exercise's catchword: "Interoperability."
The Rafele F3 with its nuclear-tipped ASMP/A is due to be declared operational by the first of July.
As part of the refitting of the US and French carriers for greater compatibility, debkafile's sources report three French E2C Hawkeye spy planes on the Charles de Gaulle were upgraded to the level of the radar aircraft of the same model carried by the Truman, including the replacement of their four-bladed propellers with a more reliable eight-blade version.
Our sources report that from its joint exercise with the French Fleet and the British air force, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group was due to leave French waters and head for the Arabian Sea opposite Pakistan and Iran via the Suez Canal. It will be stationed therefore for the next six months. Three of the group's destroyers will peel off on route for anti-piracy patrol off the Somali coast.