U.S. Navy Super Hornet refuels French Rafale and Super Etendard jets over USS Carl Vinson

F/A-18E Super Hornet serves as aerial refueler for French combat planes operating from Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier.

The images in this post were taken on Mar. 9 over the Persian Gulf (or “Arabian Gulf” if you want to use the term used by the U.S. armed forces lately).

They show an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 Sunliners refuel two French Super Étendard Marine and one Rafale Marine aircraft from French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the vicinity of U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

Operation Inherent Resolve

The French and American nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are currently deployed along with their battle groups to support strike operations in Iraq and Syria.

Last week a Rafale Marine “omnirole” aircraft belonging to the 11F operated aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the last of series of joint training events aimed at improving carrier integration.

Operation Inherent Resolve

Image credit: U.S. Navy


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. As a French, I’m always pleased to see our guys working hand by hand with the US Navy.
    A most rejoicing sight.

  2. Those French Super Étendard Marine aircraft are getting a little bit old now? They were old even in the days of the Falklands conflict! Nice to see such diverse aircraft playing nicely together.

    • they are indeed, but there are a number of aircraft in many other nation’s inventories that are just as old, even more, actually, legacy hornets, for instance.
      those you see here are a dying breed, supposed to be decommissioned in 2-3 years.
      plus: they are SEM variants; modernized just a few years ago.
      I’d rather be flying a rafale however, that’s for sure!

  3. As a long time scale aircraft modeller..( O.K. has been in a few years) a shot like this get a comparision of the shade of grays of the different service aircraft types !!

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