French Navy’s sole aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle got underway from its Toulon homeport on February 21 to start a deployment to the Middle East.
During the six months it will be away from home, Charles de Gaulle and its carrier strike group will operate in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
The French operation is called Clemenceau 2021 and will support the broader, multinational operation Inherent Resolve, whose mission is to battle ISIL.
In addition to the aircraft carrier, which carries 20 Rafale fighters and two E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft, the carrier strike group is composed of air defense frigate FS Chevalier Paul, FREMM frigate Provence, the Belgian frigate Léopold I, Greek frigate Kanaris, and American destroyer USS Porter. The group will also be reinforced by a French nuclear attack submarine and the command and supply ship Var.
France regularly contributes to Middle East operations and the FS Charles de Gaulle even led carrier-based naval strike operations for operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) as flagship of the US Navy’s Commander Task Force (CTF) 50 in December 2015.
The deployment of FS Charles de Gaulle comes just days after France deployed another high-profile naval task group to distant shores. On February 18, Mistral-class landing helicopter dock FS Tonnerre and frigate Surcouf started mission Jeanne D’Arc 2021.
This task group will not operate in the Middles East, but in the Indo-Pacific. Areas of operation will include the Red Sea, Indian ocean and Pacific ocean. It will make numerous port calls, visiting Egypt, Djibouti, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan among others, and will operate in the South China Sea.
A cooperation with the UK Carrier Strike Group, which is scheduled to embark on a maiden deployment to the Asia-Pacific later this year, is not excluded.