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A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:31 am
by redskin301
Hi All,

I didn't post this set before on this aviation forum. Last year I had the great opportunity to visit the Gharles de Gaulle during Mission Clemenceau.
This operation was part of Operation Chammal where the french were bombing the IS forces in Syria. A unique opportunity where the Rafale Ms
were flying 24/7 during the day. Were nice to see the aircraft in different configs during the missions like bombers with four laser guided weapons,
like refueling aircraft with the buddy pack under the fuselage, like reconnaissance aircraft with photo pods under the fuselage and finally like
escort fighters equipped for the air defense role. There were a total of 20 Rafales on board operating at two squadrons; 12 Flotille and 17 Flotille.
Also there were two Hawkeyes on board for guiding the Rafales and other NATO allies. two Dauphins were present for the SAR standby onboard
of the carrier. And finally there was one Caiman present for the CSAR standby and anti submarine role. I had the opportunity to stay 48 hours onboard
of the vessel; really a dream coming true as this was my first embankment; the french carrier was the highest on my carrier wish list, because Alex
is a fan of all the French aviation. For my buddy Joris van Boven it was his second visit to this ship. He made already a visit with the Etendards onboard.

Here my only video I made onboard of a departing Rafale Marine. I started later with videography so I still have to go back to the ship once :p

You can click on the link below to see the video of a rafale being launched. Scroll down to see the full photo report and my story of visiting this aircraft carrier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BZ-FOGcG5o

By big surprise we were welcomed in Cyprus by a Danish crew and first we thought if this was the right asset for us to bring us to the carrier. The very
friendly crew told us that their vessel Niels Juel was part of the carrier strike group. So after buckling up we departed towards the CdG which was a
flight of almost two hours by helicopter. The guys joked to me and my friend; don't worry to drown when we have issues, because we are SAR and
strong Vikings! After 1 hour and 40 minutes I had my first contact with a carrier ever on the screen of the SAR operator on the his terminal. Once near
the carrier we asked the pilot if we could fly around the vessel for some shots from above with the Merlin doors open. No Problem was the answer and
so it happened. Guess this is called air to surface photography? After a nice round around the ship we landed on the deck of the Gaulle. I made some
quick shots of the Merlin on deck with my 70 mm lens. the 70 mm lens was the smallest I had, because I dropped my 28 mm lens on the concrete in Cyprus
just before departure; stupid me! After this moment we were welcomed on board and the grand deck tour would start. here the shots of our arrival tour.

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Finally there she is, what a sight to see this ship from the open door of the Merlin!!!

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incredible I am standing on the deck of an operational aircraft carrier wow; who would ever thought this would happen!!! After a short introduction we were
brought to the balcony of the command tower. The first Rafale action was already happening. Our guides were two young French boys (they were just 20 years old).
They had one assignment of their boss; this was showing these reporters everything on every position they want. This was the best you could hear. The first Rafales
came back after their sortie. Also the SAR standby was ready to fly next to the ship for safety. All incredible to see with my own eyes.

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The best part of the day was to come after dinner. Food was really good onboard of the CdG. The French really take care of their crew and one of the guys said;
we as french don't accept bad food! Just before sunset a mass launch of 14 aircraft was planned. First the Hawkeye left and later all the Rafales would leave. During
startup we were able to move freely over the deck to capture all the action during the preparations. This brought some nice shots of the crews which were busy
doing their job on the deck. During launch were had the instructions to stay behind the red line near the command tower. What was the case, the catapult just in
front of us was prepared for launch. We had the opportunity to stand with only 8 meters distance from the passing planes during launch. This brought me incredible
action shots during sunset. I positioned myself a bit more towards the nose section of the carrier due to my long lens of 70 mm. With my tele-lens of 400 mm I could
take some nice angles of the aircraft during line up at the catapult. Then came the moment; CAT LAUNCH...... I write this in capital letters because the sound is so
loud due to the short range (photo 28 says enough). The Rafales gave full afterburner are the air started to move that I was pushed a bit backwards. This is definitely
my most intense aviation moment I have ever experienced. Oh Oh what a power of these French beauties. Let these photos speak for them selves down here.....

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Just a few moments before the dark we heard from our guides that the other Hawkeye was coming back for landing. The best timing of the day i guess?
Were were brought to the first elevator just behind the command tower. This was our position to photograph the Hawkeye while catching the arresting cable.
What a light on this aircraft during sunset. After the landing we made some kind of "Top Gun" shots of the parked aircraft while the light was disappearing.
Also the Niels Juel came closer to the carrier; so with the long lens I made some shots of it. Everybody thought this was the end of the day because the light
was gone. they were wrong, because Alex brought his tripod with him. I captured the Rafales while they came back in complete darkness on the ship. The
aircraft stay on their position after for almost one minute after landing to be checked and to disconnect the arresting cable. that was my moment to make
some night shots at sea. Also this was something which I couldn't imagine before we went onboard of the vessel. After this the day was really over. Next time
I will post day two of this fantastic journey. To end day one we drunk a lot of Belgian beer in the onboard pub! Cheers, and thanks for watching. Feel free to
also subscribe to my Youtube Channel where I post many more video which I made later in Japan at the end of 2019. I will post these videos in the video section
of this forum.

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Thanks for watching :)

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:35 am
by outbackair
Magnifique! This is one of the most interesting trip reports I have read, and the most amazing photos. You were so lucky. How did you achieve this visit? Are you military or journalist?

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:57 pm
by mchei
That is some great and impressive stuff. Thank you very much for sharing!

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:41 pm
by ConnectAir
Wow. amazing trip report. Like outbackair, I am also curious as to how you got access to this.

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:39 am
by christao17
Wow! What stunning photos and such a great experience you had. Thanks for sharing with us.

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:52 am
by redskin301
Thanks for the kind words people. Arranging this is quite difficult. I work as a freelance reporter and have a very good connection with the French AdlA and Aeronavale. This was the result of a long era of relation built up (15 years I guess). Actually I was invited for this trip by the Marine Nationale.

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:31 am
by igtrader88
Amazing Post very good read and is very different to a typical TR. Thank you very much!

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:55 am
by 777
Wow!!!!

That’s really cool man, well written and with superb pictures!

I also enjoyed a lot your ride on the Danish AW-101, well done!

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 10:30 am
by PHAVR
Amazing experience and super shots! Thanks for sharing with all of us! Everyone is green with envy no doubt :-)
cheers
Anton

Re: A Dream Journey to the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Posted: Thu Jul 09, 2020 3:06 am
by mcgreg
This is one of a kind report and experience! Thank you for sharing those incredible machines in action