Rafale and Super Etendard jets Launched and Recovered from French Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

Footage from aboard aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, cruising towards the Indian Ocean.

Before it crossed the Suez Canal on Jan. 26 the carrier battle group “Arromanches,” built around the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, has conducted operations and exercises with allied forces in the Mediterranean sea.

12 Rafale, 9 Super Étendard Modernisés (SEM), one E-2 Hawkeye and 4 helicopters are embarked on the carrier that is expected to join the French military operation in Iraq against the Islamic State soon.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. It’s interesting to see that the Rafales are only lighting their afterburner after they clear the deck. Also is it just me or do they seem to float in and land gentler than Hornets and the like do?

    • It’s the delta-canard config that makes the landing somewhat softer compared to the hornets

  2. Good to see the French and Brits acquiring some sea-borne military muscle. Maybe the U.S. won’t have to carry so much of the burden in the future.

  3. the cable pulling off the super Etendard that falls into the sea at every launch, is recovered or left in the sea? seems a very expensive method to launch a plane

    • They fall in the water, and are not to be recovered. 1500€ each, but the Navy thinks it’s the safest way to use brand new cables, they take no risks.
      Sure this is an old and pricey way to launch aircraft but nothing compared to the value of the plane and the life of the pilot inside.

      It’s the last plane in the seaborne French inventory to use this kind of device to take in the air, like many other retired US planes designed in the same time (Phantom, Crusader, Skyhawk, Vigilante…)

      • Thanks Yak.
        This the most stupid way to spend money and launch planes! :-)
        …and pollute the sea

        • I agree with you, nowadays it seems unlikely, but remember the plane is old : in the early days of the catapult, before the front gear towbar was in current use, most of the carrier-based planes around the world were launched that way.

          Along with Argentinian A4s, the SEM is one of the last ol’planes to use the cable (we call it “élingue” in french). Yes it’s pricey and polluting, but you don’t modify the whole fleet’s front gear or decomission the plane just for that, in the air the SEM is still a useful and trusty aircraft. Soon will come her retirement though.

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