Visit to French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle involved in Clemenceau mission

Charles Gaulle carrier Clemenceau
French Navy Rafale takes off from the flight deck of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, Cyprus.

The carrier strike group (CSG), formed around the french aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91), sailed from the Naval Base Toulon in France on Tuesday, March 5th 2019 for a deployment of several months under the name ‘Mission Clemenceau’. High level training has been held around Sicily in Italy and in the Strait of Messina on March 8th and 9th with the Italian air carrier group which was structured around the Italian aircraft carrier the Giuseppe Garibaldi. These two days were used to conduct high level exercises during which the two navies conducted operational maneuvers in many areas of engagement. With the Danish frigate Niels Juel and Portuguese Corte Real which were integrated into the French CSG, this meeting highlights the ability of European partners to work together at sea.

After the warming up training, French, European and international means from Australia, Denmark, United States, Portugal and the United Kingdom, will be deployed around the French aircraft carrier under the name of Task Force 473. The units offers France and its allies multiple capabilities such as power projection, control of airspace and gathering maritime intelligence. The Task Force 473 is commanded by Rear-Admiral Olivier Lebas and is a real politic and military tool. The task force will deploy in areas of strategic interest in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and finally in the Pacific area. The airborne group (Groupe Aérien Embarqué, GAé) on board of the Charles de Gaulle consists of twenty Dassault Rafales M, two air surveillance planes of the type Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, two Eurocopter Dauphin rescue helicopters and one NH-Industries NH90 NFH Caiman helicopter. The naval aviation group on board of the Charles de Gaulle will operate under the name Task Force 473.

On March 13, 2019, the Charles de Gaulle arrived off the coast of Syria, and the carrier battle group which was formed around the aircraft carrier conducted its first air missions during Operation Chammal, the long standing French operation against IS/ISIS/DAECH. Marine Rafales and Hawkeye’s were catapulted to support the ground troops in the vicinity of Syria and Iraq and to acquire intelligence. Other aircrafts from the carrier and the surface ships, provided control of the air-sea space. The arrival of the French naval air group reinforces the French military capabilities involved in Operation Chammal and consolidates the coalition acting within the Inherent resolve operation to fight against IS/ISIS/DAECH. The French air carrier group is familiar with this theater of operations in the Levant since it has already led three Arromanches missions since January 2015. The French aircraft carrier played a significant role in the military campaign which was contributed to the dismantling of IS/ISIS/DAECH. This capacity building illustrates the determination of France and its European and American allies to complete the military defeat of Daesh. While the current fighting is now concentrated in a small territory, this naval force provides naval air surveillance, situational awareness and intervention to observe any possible reconfiguration and counter a potential resurgence of the terrorist group.

To contribute to the defeat of IS/ISIS/DAECH, the Charles de Gaulle is lancing fully armed Rafales on a daily base to operate over the operational theatre. Thus prepositioned, this naval force will be able to intervene according to the operational needs and to fight against the threats weighing on the interests of France and the French but also of Europe and the Europeans. This means that the Rafales of the Charles de Gaulle are always available for intervention, but sometimes they will return to the carrier without having dropped their bombs. The integration of the naval aviation group into Operation Chammal, during its presence in the eastern Mediterranean comes within this framework.

In addition, this deployment against IS/ISIS/DAECH, France will enable to strengthen its strategic partnerships by developing strong links, work habits and mutual knowledge essential to operational efficiency. Exchanges and exercises will be conducted throughout the navigation, especially with Australia, Egypt and India, to cooperate with the French allies and partners and to make France shine in the world. With Egypt the “Ramses” exercises will be held before the Charles de Gaulle and its battle group will move along to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.In the Indian Ocean an Australian vessel will join the carrier strike group during the second part of Mission Clemenceau. When the formation will reach India, they will join the Indian forces for a few major interoperability exercises. India is a very important partner for France and its strategic partners. The final part of the mission will be conducted just before summer in the vicinity of Singapore.

Mission Clemenceau will end for the battle group in that area and the ships will return to Europe after this deployment. But until then the Task Force 473 is at this moment active during the missions over Syria.

On Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 March, Joris van Boven and Alex van Noije visited the french aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) near Cyprus.

Text and Pics: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noije

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