France’s Charles de Gaulle Sails to Fight ISIL in Syria

France is deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, for the second time this year to the Middle East to augment its strike capabilities against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The carrier has set sail and should reach the region within a few days, near the coast of Syria or Lebanon.  The Charles de Gaulle will also be the Allied sole aircraft carrier in the region until the USS Harry S Truman arrive on station early in 2016.

French President François Hollande declared that Syria was “the largest terrorist factory the world has ever known.” He also added that the Paris attacks strengthen France’s determination to destroy ISIL. Hollande even called on the United States and Russia to join a global coalition to destroy Islamic State.

“The sponsors of the attack in Paris must know that their crimes further strengthen the determination of France to fight and to destroy them,” Hollande said.

Hollande also stated that France was at war with jihadist terrorism. “We are not in a war of civilizations. These assassins don’t represent a civilization. We are at war with jihadist terrorism which threatens the whole of the world and not only France.”

Although the deployment of the carrier was planned before the ISIS-claimed attacks in Paris on Friday, claiming 129 lives and more than 352 injured innocent civilians, France is delivering a strong statement that they will seek retaliation for its loss.

The Charles de Gaulle is being deployed to support the current U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve currently conducting an air campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

Janes commented that France’s deployment of the Charles de Gaulle on November 12. “The French carrier’s deployment will also act as a stopgap, making up for the absence of a US Navy carrier in the region: the USS Theodore Roosevelt will soon leave the Gulf and her replacement, the USS Harry S Truman , will not arrive on station until early 2016. On the other hand the Charles de Gaulle will enter a major mid-life overhaul in early 2017 that will make it unavailable until mid-2018.”


Rafale F3 fighters line up on the deck of the French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaule. Photo: EMA Marine Nationale
Rafale F3 fighters line up on the deck of the French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle. Photo: EMA Marine Nationale

The first deployment of the Charles de Gaulle in the region was a two-month long deployment under anti-ISIS Opération Chammal. The carrier effectively launched between 10 to 15 sorties a day with a mix of Dassault Rafale M aircraft and Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM).

The French carrier will operates a fleet of 24 fighter aircraft—16 Rafale M and 8 SuperÉtendard—enabling her to conduct many sorties everyday, especially with the intensification of the French air strikes.

L'opération Chammal de l'armée française en Irak © DR
L’opération Chammal de l’armée française en Irak © DR

On November 15, France conducted a a self-described “massive” strike against ISIS targets in Syria. The 10 French jets dropped more than 20 bombs in Raqqa, Syria.

“It was normal to take the initiative and action and France had the legitimacy to do so. We did it already in the past, we have conducted new airstrikes in Raqqa,  today,” France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. “One cannot be attacked harshly, and you know the drama that is happening in Paris, without being present and active.”

The operation was launched from Jordan—six Mirage 2000 (3N and 3D)—and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—ten Rafale—where French fighters are based.


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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.