On 23 November 2015, the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, operating in the Persian Gulf, launched her first air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In early December, Rear Admiral Rene-Jean Crignola, French Navy, embarked in the de Gaulle, assumed command of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 50 leading naval coalition strike operations in Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight to destroy the ISIS terrorist organization.
With some 26 interceptor/attack and fighter-bomber aircraft on board, the Charles de Gaulle is bringing important strike power to the fight and to the broader mission of protecting the region’s security, as she adds a new chapter to her career. The carrier was laid down in 1989, launched in 1994, and commissioned in May 2001. In November 2001, she deployed to the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, flying more than 700 reconnaissance and strike sorties. In 2011, following additional deployments and overhaul, she deployed to the Mediterranean for operations enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya.
The angled-deck carrier is 858 feet long, 211 feet in beam, draws 30 feet, 42,500-tons full-load displacement, and has a speed of 27 knots. Her nuclear propulsion system also provides steam for the catapults, one on the port-side bow and the other on the angled deck. She has three arrester wires and two starboard side deck-edge elevators aft of the island. Her personnel include 1,350 ship’s company and 650 air wing, with the capability to embark an additional 800 troops.
The carrier’s air wing includes twin-engine Dassault Rafale-Marine interceptor attack aircraft and single-engine Dassault-Brequet Super-Étendard strike fighters, both planes with a weapons capability of missiles, cannon, bombs, and rockets. She operates the French Navy variant of the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye radar surveillance aircraft, and has antisubmarine, search-and-rescue, and transport helicopters. Her hangar deck can accommodate up to 23 fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters. During operations in the Gulf, she lands and launches U.S. Navy C-2 Greyhounds carrying passengers and cargo.