French Carrier Heads NATO Mission

French Carrier Heads NATO Mission
French Carrier Heads NATO Mission

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sets sail for a NATO mission.

After eight months of work and several sea trials, the French aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle has set sail from Toulon for six weeks of operations in the Mediterranean, two of which will be under NATO operational control, in a first.

The flagship of the French military fleet, with its Rafale Marine fighter jets, left the port in southeastern France, journalists observed. It is escorted in its travels by a nuclear attack submarine, specialized frigates and a replenishment ship, all constituting the French "carrier strike group", the largest in Europe.

From April 26 to May 10, it will participate in a NATO mission involving ships from several nations (United States, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy) under the command of the maritime staff, which includes 15 nations including France and is headed by an American vice admiral.

On April 25, on the eve of its passage under NATO operational control, the aircraft carrier will also host for the first time on board the conference of the 32 ambassadors of the alliance member countries, a sign of France's reinvestment in NATO.

French Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, number two of the NATO maritime command, had stressed when announcing this mission that France could "at the snap of a finger regain national command during operations if necessary".

"We must not give in to lies," said the Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu, assuring that "France never loses command of its forces placed under NATO flag."

With this mission, the Charles de Gaulle, which embarks 1,900 crew members and 40 aircraft, resumes operations after its period of unavailability for intermediate maintenance which began in May 2023, with eight months of work to "maintain and modernize its capabilities," according to the ministry, and sea trials.