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FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) Aircraft Carrier (2001)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/30/2014

FS Charles de Gaulle R91 became the first French-made, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the only carrier currently serving in the French Navy.

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The Charles de Gaulle (R 91) is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier currently in service with the French Navy. She stands as the first French-produced nuclear-powered surface craft ever and features a variety of modern high-tech systems that make her major player on the global stage. She fields the powerful naval variant of the Dassault Rafale (known by the designation of "Rafale M") and can also sport a variety of other specialized aircraft and helicopters as needed. The Charles de Gaulle (or "CDG") is current flagship of the French Navy - also known as the "Marine Nationale".

Though relatively smaller than her Western counterparts, the Charles de Gaulle is nevertheless a potent carrier designed to fit French Navy interests. Her island superstructure is held along the starboard side though well forward when compared to Western designs. The superstructure contains most of the detection, communications and radar equipment systems. Most of the vessels surface area is made up of her flight deck and includes an angled portion running from rear starboard/stern-to-port side. The design features noticeably smooth contour lines running above the waterline.

As with most carriers on today's seas, the Charles de Gaulle makes her offensive presence known through her onboard air wing. She can field up to 40 types of various makes and models as needed but more traditionally sports Super Etendards and Dassault Rafales fighters, Dassault Mirage 2000D attack fighters, Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and SA365 Dauphin series helicopters. For defensive measure, the Charles de Gaulle can call upon her battery of 4 x 8 cell SYLVER launchers firing the MBDA Aster 15 series surface-to-air missile or the 2 x 6 cell Sadral launchers fitted with Mistral short-range surface-to-air missiles. Additionally, the CDG is covered from close-in aerial or surface threats with her array of 8 x 20mm GIAT 20F2 series single-barrel cannons. Supporting systems include an ARBR21 Detector suite, ARBB 33 Countermeasures suite, decoy launchers, ARBG2 MAIGRET Interceptor system and SLAT anti-torpedo countermeasures.

The Charles de Gaulle was sent into combat in support of Allied forces during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Charles de Gaulle, along with a French Navy contingent of ships and submarine, launched daily raids and reconnaissance sorties against Taliban forces in Afghanistan using her Super Etendards, Rafale, Hawkeye and helicopter aircraft while in direct contact with active belligerent ground-to-air positions. The vessel and her Super Etendards later took part in reconnaissance leading up to Operation Anaconda, officially ending her involvement in the region by May of 2007.

The Charles de Gaulle was first ordered in 1986 and not laid down until 1989 at DCN Brest Naval shipyard (the vessel then known as the Richelieu). She was launched in 1994 and officially commissioned in 2001 and - in a departure from historical tradition that called for two carriers to be in active service at any one time - currently remains in active service with the French Navy as its only carrier. The Charles de Gaulle makes her homeport in Toulon, France and is aptly nicknamed "CDG" by her crews. The vessel was named after French General and Free French Forces statesman Charles de Gaulle.

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Specifications for the
FS Charles de Gaulle (R91)
Aircraft Carrier


Country of Origin: France
Initial Year of Service: 2001
Operators: France


Crew: 2,750


Length: 857.9 ft (261.49 m)
Beam: 211.15 ft (64.36 m)
Draught: 30.93 ft (9.43 m)
Displacement: 42,000 tons


Machinery: 2 x K15 Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) (350MW total) and 4 x diesel-electric engines powering 2 x shafts.

Surface Speed: 27 kts (31 mph)
Range: Essentially Unlimited


Armament:
4 x SYLVER 8-cell surface-to-air missile launchers (MBDA Aster 15 missiles)
2 x Sadral 6-cell short-range surface-to-air missile launchers (Mistral missiles)
8 x 20mm GIAT 20F2 dual-purpose close-defense cannons


Air Arm: Up to 40 aircraft of various makes and types including:

16 x Super Etendard fighters
6 x Mirage 2000D strike fighters
5 x Rafale M multi-role fighters
2 x E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning Aircraft
2 x Eurocopter AS 565MB Panther OR 2 x Eurocopter AS 322 Cougar Mk II OR Eurocopter Super Frelon Helicopters
2 x Dauphin Helicopters


Ship Class: Charles de Gaulle (CVN)
Number-in-Class: 1
Ships-in-Class: Charles de Gaulle (R 91)