The French Marine Nationale flagship Charles de Gaulle and its carrier strike group (CSG) departed from Marseilles on Tuesday to begin the CSG’s first operational deployment of 2022, which will take place until April. The carrier and escorts are now headed to the eastern Mediterranean and will take part in the "Clemenceau 22" exercises. This will be the carrier's fourteenth mission, during which it will demonstrate its interoperability with multiple ally and partner navies.
The Charles de Gaulle CSG will be part of Task Force 473 (TF 473), which will include warships from the European Union, NATO, and French partner nations during the deployment.
The other French Navy vessels in the task group include the destroyer FS Forbin, frigates FS Alsace and FS Normandie, replenishment ship FS Marne, and a nuclear attack submarine. Partner ships integrated into TF 473 include the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross, Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Juan de Borbon, Hellenic (Greek) Navy frigate HS Adrias, and the Royal Moroccan Navy corvette Sultan Moulay Ismail. A Hellenic Navy submarine will also join the task force on February 7.
The U.S. Navy stated last week that the participation of the Sixth Fleet's USS Ross was meant to demonstrate "the interoperability level between U.S. and French naval forces." The statement continued: "While TF 473 operates in the Mediterranean with an integrated U.S. destroyer, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, working in close coordination with other commands throughout the alliance, is exercising command and control of a U.S. carrier strike group. The flexibility of command and control structures among allies supports the collective defense of Europe."
A Sizeable Air Wing
According to USNI News, the embarked air group aboard Charles De Gaulle includes twenty Rafale F3R fighters, two E-2C Hawkeyes Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, one Dauphin helicopter, one Panther helicopter, and one NH90 NFH Caïman anti-submarine warfare helicopter. In addition, a Belgian Air Component NH90 helicopter is embarked on Forbin.
Land-based fixed-wing aircraft supporting the deployment include a French Navy Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and a U.S Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
As part of the Clemenceau 22 mission, the French CSG will also conduct "tri carrier operations" with the Italian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier Cavour and her CSG, along with the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class USS Harry S. Truman CSG. It will be the first time this year that two foreign navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers operate together. Currently, only the U.S. Navy and the French Marine Nationale operate nuclear-powered carriers.
The main purpose of the upcoming exercise is to maintain interoperability between allied navies and train with new assets, including Italian F-35Bs, and American E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.