USN Pilot Recalls C-2A Greyhound Ops Aboard French Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier

C-2 Charles De Gaulle
C-2A on the flight deck of Charles de Gaulle on Jan. 6, 2016. (All images, credit: Second Petty Officer LUU Cindy, French Navy, unless otherwise stated)

A U.S. Navy pilot went aboard Charles de Gaulle with the C-2A Greyhound to document flight ops aboard ‘The Only Foreign Aircraft Carrier We Can Land On’.

“I filmed this video in 2016 when my squadron (VRC-40) spent a day aboard France’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle (R91),” says our friend Rob Roy a former Naval Aviator who flew the Greyhound with the “Rawhides” of VRC-40.

His cool clips filmed during his career flying the type, provide an unprecedented look at the C-2’s blue water operations inside and outside the cockpit. You check the ones we have already commented, showing Rob not even blinking on approach to the carrier, performing a bolter and a waveoff, or his first SHB (“Shit Hot Break”), although you can find many more on his Youtube channel here.

“While I didn’t get a chance to do any flying on or off the ship, I was fortunate enough to be given full access to their flight deck and allowed to film while we conducted joint flight operations.”

The C-2A Greyhound taxies on the flight deck of Charles de Gaulle next to the Marine Nationale Rafale jets.

The footage and photos you can find in this article dates back to January 2016, when the VRC-40 C-2A COD (Carrier On Board Delivery) planes flying from Manama, Bahrain, carried out trap landings and cat shots aboard French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle operating in the Persian Gulf, keeping up the practice that had started the year before, when VRC-40 Det. 1 Greyhounds landed on the carrier and French Rafales operated from the flight of USS Carl Vinson

“The plane you see landing and taking off in the video is a U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound, also nicknamed the COD (carrier onboard delivery). I flew the Greyhound for several years and have landed on a few different American aircraft carriers, but it was incredible to be able to see the flight deck operations of the Charles de Gaulle first hand.”

“The French Navy does not own any C-2s, but they do fly the E-2 Hawkeye, which has the same wingspan and very similar dimensions and flight characteristics to the C-2.”

“French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) type aircraft carrier, which is the only way we’re able to do joint ops with them and not other ships like the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy.”

View from the C-2A Greyhound about to land (Image credit: Rob Roy)

“Another funny thing that happens in the video is I mispronounce the name of the French fighter jets.  They are Dassault Rafales and are pronounced “Ra-fal,” not “Raphael” like the teenage mutant ninja turtle or the Italian painter . Rafale means “gust of wind” or “burst of fire” in a more military sense. Obviously I meant no disrespect by it and even looked up the correct spelling before I recorded the audio, but I didn’t think I would mispronounce it so severely so as to almost jeopardize American foreign relations with the French! And what’s more ironic is that I’m actually fluent in Spanish and speak many phrases in different languages, but somehow butchered this word so poorly. And being as it’s a published video on YouTube, I can’t edit the audio and re-do the voiceover, but I wish I could, ha!”

The USN C-2A about to perform a touch and go on Charles de Gaulle.

“My time spent on the Charles de Gaulle is something I am very grateful to have experienced and have nothing but respect and admiration for the French Sailors we met that day – they were very welcoming and beyond professional.  And although I never got to see the world-class and fully-stocked bar they have below deck, the French did send us flying off with several freshly made baguettes, which was a pleasant surprise!”

Rob at work on Charles de Gaulle.

Only 15 C-2A still in service.

The U.S. Navy planned to retire the last 15 Greyhounds by 2026, replacing them with 38 CMV-22B Ospreys. The transition to the new COD aircraft was already completed on the West Coast, when the Osprey was grounded following the crash that involved a USAF CV-22B off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan, on Nov. 29, 2023. The worldwide standdown was ordered after preliminary investigation information indicated a potential materiel failure caused the CV-22B crash, killing 8 crew members.

C-2A getting ready for a cat shot from Charles de Gaulle on Jan. 6, 2016.

Following the grounding, the U.S. Navy surged the last C-2A Greyhound squadron, Fleet Logistics Support (VRC) 40, to swap out the embarked CMV-22 with the C-2 in order to continue to meet the Carrier Onboard Delivery mission. The C-2As replaced the new CMV-22B Osprey, with the East Coast’s VRC-40 flying the COD mission for the West Coast carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Naval Air Systems Command lifted the grounding order on its V-22 Osprey fleet on March 8 easing the pressure on the last Greyhounds.

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.