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, Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft, and SA365 Dauphin series naval 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.
February 2015 - It was revealed that the Charles de Gaulle was formally committed to French actions against ISIS (Islamic State) forces in Iraq. The vessel would support the ongoing air campaign against the regional foe.
February 2017 - Charles de Gaulle (R91) is currently undergoing a massive modernization program intended to keep the warship a viable component of the French military for decades more. The planned work will improve the onboard combat system, NATO interoperability, and install the Thales Smart-S Combat Management System (CMS). Support for the Dassault Rafale fighter will also be addressed as the Dassault Super Etendard fleet has been completely retired from service aboard the carrier. With the changes in place, it is expected that the vessel will serve until 2039 and beyond.