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    French Carrier Charles de Gaulle Embarks on Strategic NATO Mission in April 2024

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    After a five-month period of maintenance, the French Navy’s flagship, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, geared up for a vital mission in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2024.

    Departing from Toulon on April 26, 2024, the carrier strike group (CSG) Task Force 473 also known as the GAN, was poised to reinforce NATO’s presence in the region through a series of strategic maneuvers and training exercises.

    On April 22nd, around 3,000 sailors, soldiers, and airmen from France, the United States, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Portugal were deployed for Akila.

    Rear Admiral Jacques Mallard, commander of the French Carrier Strike Group CSG, had announced that “the CSG would be placed directly under NATO command” for the first time.

    The operation was coordinated from Oeiras, Portugal, the headquarters of the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), an operational command responsible for providing maritime battle staff to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

    Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, the deputy commander of NATO’s Maritime Command (MARCOM), stated, “It was the first time that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its entire escort…were under NATO operational control for 15 days during an operational vigilance activity.”

    However, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was intended to facilitate the execution of the Nuclear Naval Air Force (FANu), established in 1978 as one of the three strategic forces of French deterrence.

    As an exclusive entity globally, given that American aircraft carriers no longer harbored nuclear armaments, the FANu served as a “force of circumstance” where, during the aircraft carrier’s deployment at sea, it naturally fell under the exclusive authority of the President of the Republic, who served as the head of the Armed Forces.

    Hence, this scenario did not apply when the GAN transitioned to NATO operational command.

    “We were not going to lose our strategic autonomy in any way. At any moment, we could 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 “allowed us to fall in line by bringing ourselves to the same level as our allies. We also learned a lot […], building mutual expertise.”

    Notably, the French carrier engaged in the Mare Aperto 24 exercise, organized between May 3 and May 27 by the Italian Navy.

    Admiral Nicolas Vaujour, Chief of Staff of the French Navy, explained the importance of this bilateral training, enabling the operation of two groups alongside Italy’s aircraft carrier ‘Cavour.’

    The French CSG also hosted the North Atlantic Council, consisting of representatives from NATO’s 33 member countries.

    Additionally, it was accompanied by naval units from the United States, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Portugal.

    Relevant articles:
    French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle to Operate Under NATO Comman, Army Recognition
    American, French, Italian Carrier Strike Groups Sail Together in the Mediterranean Sea, Naval Forces Europe (.mil)
    French CSG to sail under NATO command for the first time, Naval News
    French Carrier Strike Group Sails for Eastern Mediterranean, Defense aerospace

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