On the night of 13 November, France suffered its worst terrorist attack since World War II. Less than a week later, the French navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed from her home port in Toulon to the Middle East, seeking destruction of the Islamic State terrorist organization. By 23 November the carrier, whose air wing included 18 advanced Rafale Maritime strike fighters and 8 older Super Étendard attack jets, had commenced bombing and intelligence-collection operations against ISIS, joining other land-based French aircraft and U.S.-led coalition assets already fighting in the region. Along with her escorting French warships, the British Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender deployed alongside, helping to provide air defense for the Charles de Gaulle. On 4 December French President Francois Hollande visited the 40,000-ton ship off the coast of Syria to emphasize her importance in the fight against terrorism.
By Eric Wertheim