Naval Air: June 25, 2002

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The nuclear powered French aircraft carrier "Charles-de-Gaulle" should be returning to its homeport of Toulon on 2 July 2002, after completing a six-month mission that began on 18 December 2001. This will be one of the longest cruises ever for a French aircraft carrier, which will leave its patrol zone off the coast of Pakistan on 20 June in the company of it's escort group (a supply ship, a repair ship, a frigate and a nuclear attack submarine) have been with her since the start of the Afghanistan antiterrorist operations. Its longest mission at sea (between Port-of-Calls) was for 68 straight days and nights, which the French equate to the patrols made by strategic missile launching nuclear submarines. 

The Charles-de-Gaulle will have traveled 60,000 nautical miles (the equivalent of going 2.5 times around the globe), while its planes logged about 2,870 hours of flying time and its helicopters 1,980. One of the aircraft carrier's many missions was to monitor maritime about 2,530 ships. At the request of the United States, it also dropped or fired a total of 36 bombs or missiles on land target. 

The return of the Charles de Gaulle marks a major change in France's military deployment in the region, since President Jacques Chirac has decided to leave only the ground forces deployed in Kabul, along with the air units in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The decision also comes at a time when the Elysee and the Raffarin government have invited the general staffs to propose a new draft military spending bill this autumn for the 2003-2008 period, which poses whether a second aircraft carrier should be put into service. 

In order for the Charles-de-Gaulle to remain technically operational, it has to be taken out of service for eight months every four years. The Charles-de-Gaulle will be immobilized during the second half of 2002, so that it can be fitted with its two permanent propellers as it has been limping along with two old propellers. Supporters of a second aircraft carrier have suggested that the French politicians stop the 'Terrible' project (last of a series of four strategic submarines), which began in 2001. - Adam Geibel 

 


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