History of Aeronaval In 1910, only a few months after Louis Blériot crossed the Channel between France and the United Kingdom, the French Navy (‘Marine Nationale’) commanded 7 officers to become their first pilots and in December of that year a Farman aircraft was bought as the first airplane of the French Navy. In 1912, the French President officially created the Naval Air department called ‘Aeronaval’ within the French Navy. Until 1920, the only flying activities took place from land, until the first aircraftcarrier ‘Bearn’ was commissioned. After the Second World War, the French Navy obtained lot’s of allied materials to continue their fighting in Northern Africa and South-East Asia/ In the early 1960’s, 2 aircraftcarriers ‘Foch’ and ‘Clemenceau’ flew with the legendary F-8 Crusaders and the Etendards. The latest aircarftcarrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ is used to launch and recover the Super Etendard and the Rafale. The Aeronaval played a role in the civil war of Yugoslavia and nowadays the aircraft fly missions overhead Afghanistan
Events in 2010
For the 100 years Aeronaval, several festivities were organized throughout the year 2010:
- The last transit of the ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ (a helicopter carrier) on the river Seine, to it’s resting place in Le Havre, in May 2010
- A concert in Hyères city, by musicians in the French fleet at Toulon, in June 2010.
- A ceremony in the naval base of Lann-Bihoué for the old mariners, pilots and technicians, in September 2010.
- Salon Aeronaval, an exposition of various aircraft of the French Navy at the Le Bourget exposition parc, in October 2010.
- Inauguration of the Musée de la Marine in Paris, October 2010.
Hyères air how June 13th
The main event for ‘100 ans aeronaval’ was dedicated to the naval airbase of Hyères (Base Arienne Navale ‘Hyères - La Palyvestre’, ICAO code LFTH), a few kilometers outside the main naval base of Toulon. On June 13th 2010, a large airshow was combined with a line-up of naval vessels at sea. The vessels at sea could be seen clearly from the airbase.
A number of aircraft received a special decoration for the ‘centenaire’ during 2010:
• Super Etendard, completely decorated in silver and black, with a drawing of the first French carrier ‘Bearn’ and the latest carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’. The tail contains a part of the French roundel (‘cocarde’).
• Atlantic, with a special tail
• Xingu, with a special tail
• Panther, with a black and yellow painting on the body
• Dauphin, civil registered SAR helicopter, with a blue, white and black body
• E-2 Hawkeye, with ‘100 ans aeronaval’ markings
Ships at sea
8 naval vessels from various countries were anchored in the bay of Hyères, an impressive armada of 3 aircraft carriers and 5 accompanying naval vessels could be witnessed from the shore on a sunny Sunday morning. The British Royal Navy with the ‘Argus’ and the German Navy with the ‘Hessen’ The French Navy showed their flag by the ‘Foudre’, ‘Forbin’ and the aircraftcarrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ (R91), which had a Rafale, Super Etendard and helicopters onboard. The Spanish contribution to this international Armanda consisted of the flagship of the Spanish Navy (Armada) , the aircraft carrier ‘Principe de Asturias’ (R11) with a few helicopters and Boeing AV-8 Harriers on deck.
The United States Navy was present with 2 vessels, the USS Normandy and the aircraft carrier USS Truman (CVN-75). This aircraft carrier was occupied by a full airwing of US Navy and US Marines aircraft. After the Hyeres show, this aircraftcarrier would set sail to the Gulf region for their for a 5-6 months ‘tour of duty’ in the Gulf region. The French Navy MediaGroup (‘SIRPA.MARINE, Marine Nationale Franças’) organized a short boattrip along the vessels at sea, followed by a (very sort) visit to the flightdeck of USS Truman. In just 15 minutes, the flightdeck coud be visisted. On the flightdeck, the usual aircraft-parking-puzzle of various F/A-18 models (C/D/E/F), EA-6B’s, SH-60’s, E-2C’s) Hyères airshow
The Hyères airshow was called in French “Meeting du Centenaire de l'Aéronautique Navale” (Meeting of a century of naval aviation). Hyères is mixed military and civil airbase near Toulon. In previous years it was transformed from a military naval base, when French Crusaders were based here, into a mixed airbase, with only helicopters as the remaining military inhabitants. In front of the huge hangars, both the static show and the dynamic show could be witnessed by the audience, while most aircraft started up in close distance. Just as most French airshows, the show started with some ‘oldtimers’, where most of these ‘oldies’ actually flew in the Aeronaval. The largest step back in time was a flight of a fragile replica of Bleriot’s aircraft from the very early 1900’s. The Second World War was represented by various aircraft from that era like a Junkers JU-52, the Vought Corsair and Grumman TBM Avenger. During the rehearsals on Saturday (June 12th) a Focke Wulf 190 ditched into the sea, whereby the pilot survived fortunately. The jet era was represented by a civilian registered Fouga Zefyr (the naval variant of the Fouga Magister) and a MS 760 Paris in bare metal painting, making more noise than nowadays jets. Another aircraft of the 1950s/1960s was a Swiss registered DeHavilland Vampire, also one of the aircraft types used by Aeronaval. Unfortunately, there was no F-8 Crusader in flying condition,that could have been a highlight of the show.The ‘Patrouille de France’ was present in the middle part of the airshow and after the ‘Patroullie’ the current jets and helicopters performed their shows. Single performances were made by a Spanish Harrier and a French Airforce Rafale.
A formation of Aeronaval helicopters (Alouette 3, Lynx, Panther) performed a flypast followed by a SAR demonstration and a ‘ballet’ of the 3 Alouette 3’s, which resembled a bit like the Dutch ‘Grasshopper’ shows of 4 Alouette 3’s in the 1980s. The French navy demonstrated their propeller aircraft with a Breguet Atlantic 2 and a Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, and their jet aircraft by a formation of 4 Super Etendard’s and 2 Rafales. These 6 jets flew in formation and did a flyby while 2 Super Etendards were connected via an air-to-air-refueling hose.
A civil Airbus 380 did a short flyby until the US Navy came into action. 4 F/A-18s took off from Hyeres and the aircraft made several formation passes, in a 4-ship formation and in 2 separate 2-ship formations. After their show, the F/A-18s flew to the sea where they landed onboard of the USS Truman. All US Navy aircraft departed that same Sunday for landing onboard of the USS Truman (SH-60, E-2C, C-2, spare F/A-18), then the ship set sail to the Gulf area. An estimated 35.000 people witnessed this very sunny day, while 2 days later the same airbase was closed down due to the flooding caused by monsoon-like rainfall. Unfortunately, the last large Super Frelon helicopters were withdrawn from service a month before the airshow, only a single Super Frelon was shown as gate-guard near the main entrance of the base. Other gate-guards were a HSS-1 helicopter, a Fouga Zefyr and a Etendard IVM. On the airbase, several aircraft are dumped or used as instructional airframes (Nord 262, Etendard, Super Etendard, Lynx, Alizé).
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