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French aircraft carrier starts final drill ahead of 2020 deployment

FS Charles de Gaulle
Photo: French Navy

FS Charles de Gaulle, the French Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is underway in the Mediterranean Sea for one final carrier strike group (CSG) exercise before its 2020 deployment.

From November 25 to December 6, French Navy assets assigned to the CSG will work with US, Italian and Spanish units during the “PEAN 19” exercises.

PEAN 19 is being conducted to evaluate the group’s readiness in surface, anti-submarine, and anti-air warfare before it deploys in early 2020.

French units involved in the drill include helicopter carriers Tonnerre and Mistral, FREMM frigate Auvergne, air-warfare destroyer Chevalier Paul, command and support ships and minehunters. The exercise will likely involve maneuvers with submarines, but the Marine Nationale did not reveal any information on this.

Joining the 11 ships from France are US guided-missile destroyer Ross, Italian FREMM frigate Luigi Rizzo and Spanish frigate Blas de Lezo.

Members of the US 6th Fleet staff observe flight operations aboard FS Charles de Gaulle (R91), Nov. 19, 2019. Photo: French Navy

The aircraft carrier is underway with its complete air wing, with 20 Rafale M fighter jets, a Hawkeye early warning aircraft and helicopters. What is more, the carrier strike group wil have the opportunity to work for the first time with an ATL2 maritime patrol aircraft that has recently been upgraded to standard 6 with enhanced submarine detection capabilities.

The 2020 deployment will be FS Charles de Gaulle’s second one since it completed a mid-life refit in 2018. The first one began in March and saw the French carrier strike group sail as far east as Singapore, where it hosted the Shangri-La Dialogue from May 31 to June 2.