Ten days after the Paris terrorist attacks, France has intensified its strikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIL. With the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle having just been deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, the French Navy now has an additional twenty-six combat aircraft (18 Rafale’s, 8 Super Etendard’s) and five helicopters.
The Charles de Gaulle is currently the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in operation today in France. It has a total height of 246 feet (75 metres), equivalent to a 25-storey building, and an overall flight deck area of 130,000 sq feet (12,000m2) - larger than a football field - incorporating two catapult equipped separate take-off and landing designated areas (axial and oblique). In total, it can accommodate up to 40 aircraft.
For deck landing, these steel arresting gear cables are laid across the landing area. Thanks to them, a Rafale arriving at 160 mph (250 km/h), can stop in three short seconds, for a distance of only 300 feet (90 metres). Two lateral lifts, or elevators, give access to the hangar deck, located below the flight deck, for maintenance and rearmament operations. These lifts are capable of transporting two aircraft, up or down, every two minutes. The ship’s munitions store can hold nearly 600 metric tons of bombs and missiles.
The Charles de Gaulle’s total complement now stands at 2,800 men. Amongst them, 500 personnel form part of the onboard air wing, including pilots, maintenance technicians and tactical aircrew. With its onboard supplies capacity (food and fuel), the ship has up to 45 days autonomy.