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French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle to Operate Under NATO Command for the First Time in History.

| Naval News Navy 2024

After a five-month "intermediate maintenance unavailability" [IEI], the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has been ramping up its power for several weeks now. It is now ready to be deployed again with its carrier strike group [GAN or TF473]. On April 26, 2024, it will depart from Toulon for a short mission focused exclusively on the Mediterranean, deliberately avoiding the Red Sea to prevent escalation with the Houthi rebels, who target commercial traffic near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French Rafale taking off Charles de Gaulle Carrier (Picture source: French Navy  )

This deployment, named "Akila" , will see the GAN participate in the Mare Aperto 24 exercise, organized by the Italian Navy between May 3 and 27. "This will allow us to operate two groups, one with the aircraft carrier 'Cavour', the other with the 'Charles de Gaulle'," explained Admiral Nicolas Vaujour, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy, last October. However, before this, the French carrier strike group will be under the operational control of NATO, specifically under the "Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO" , for two weeks. This is unprecedented, as Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, the deputy commander of NATO's Maritime Command [MARCOM], reminded AFP.

"It's the first time that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its entire escort, including a nuclear-powered attack submarine, will be under NATO operational control for 15 days during an operational vigilance activity, which is much more significant than an exercise," the officer explained.

Nevertheless, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is supposed to enable the implementation of the Nuclear Naval Air Force , which, created in 1978, is one of the three strategic forces of French deterrence. Unique in the world since American aircraft carriers no longer carry nuclear weapons, the FANu is a "force of circumstance" that, when the aircraft carrier is at sea, is naturally under the sole authority of the President of the Republic, head of the Armed Forces. Therefore, this will not be the case if the GAN passes under NATO operational control.

"We are not going to lose our strategic autonomy in any way. At any moment, we can reclaim the mandate" and place the GAN back under national command "during the operation, if necessary," Vice Admiral Maleterre clarified. For the Task force commander, Rear Admiral Jacques Mallard, this mission "will allow us to fall in line by bringing ourselves to the same level as our allies. We will also learn a lot […], building mutual expertise."

Additionally, according to Cols Bleus, french naval oriented, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will host the North Atlantic Council, consisting of representatives from the 33 member countries. Furthermore, it will be escorted by naval forces from the United States, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Portugal.

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