French Carrier Strike Group Begins 2021 Deployment

February 23, 2021 5:58 PM
French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sets on Feb. 21 2021. French Navy Photo

The French Navy’s (Marine Nationale) carrier strike group set sail on Sunday for a four-month operational deployment called Clemenceau 21.

Aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and its escorts will operate in the Eastern Mediterranean for several months before sailing to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf and then returning home to France in June. A focus of the Clemenceau 21 mission will be the fight against terrorism.

Mission Clemenceau 21 follows a similar deployment that took place in 2019. According to the French Navy, the 2021 deployment will repeat many of the major cooperation exercises that took place in 2019. The program also demonstrates continuity with the 2019 mission in that the CSG will take a similar path; will pursue the same objectives of security and the defense of freedom of action in these strategic areas; and will have the same cooperative dynamic with allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia and India.

A French amphibious group led by landing helicopter dock FS Tonnerre (L9014) also departed last week for its own deployment, called Mission Jeanne d’Arc 21. The ARG and CSG will follow the same path in the initial phases of their respective deployments.

The CSG is set to return to Toulon in June.

French Ministry of Defense

With mission Clemenceau 21, the French Navy is deploying some of its most capable assets to areas of strategic interest: the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The carrier strike group offers a range of capabilities, from simple deterrent presence to long-range strikes.

The Mediterranean occupies a strategic location – it connects the Middle East region to the Atlantic, provides access to the Black Sea and is a hub for migration from Africa to Europe. Projecting the CSG in this area of tension makes it possible to position a naval aviation force for surveillance, autonomous situational assessment and intervention — allowing France to be ready to act based on operational needs. Since 2011, the French Navy has maintained a permanent French naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and has participated in monitoring the situation in the Middle East.

This week, NATO kicked off its annual Dynamic Manta anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Mediterranean. The French CSG is will participate in the drills as it passes through the operational area off Sicily on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Securing the Persian Gulf – a strategic area because it is surrounded by vital nerve points for the world economy like the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal – is the subject of constant attention by France and its allies, as demonstrated by operation Agenor.

The presence of the carrier strike group and the regular deployment of naval assets within this tense and contested area helps ensure safety and freedom of action. At the same time, the fight against terrorism is a major issue in this area. The CSG is deploying its resources to fight terrorism there, which represents a major threat to Europe, France and its allies.

France is the only European country to have a permanent military presence in the Indian Ocean. French Navy ships contribute to the stabilization and protection of national interests. This deployment will strengthen France’s connections with its strategic partners in the area by developing strong relationships and by promoting mutual knowledge.

Mission Clemenceau 21 is the French carrier strike group’s 13th deployment since 2001.

The CSG is composed of:

  • Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and its air wing,
  • Multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Auvergne,
  • Multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Provence,
  • Air defense frigate (FDA) Chevalier Paul,
  • Command and refueling vessel (BCR) Var,
  • A nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN).

Allied escort vessels that will join the CSG are:

  • Belgian frigate HNLMS Leopold I (F-930)
  • Greek frigate HS Kanaris (F-464)
  • U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78),/li>

Charles de Gaulle’s air wing includes:

  • 20 Rafale Marine fighters
  • 2 E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft
  • 2 Dauphin SAR helicopters
  • 1 Caïman Marine (NH90 NFH) maritime helicopter

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

Xavier Vavasseur

Xavier Vavasseur

Xavier Vavasseur is the editor of Naval News based in Paris, France. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems and a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). Xavier has been covering naval defense topics for nearly a decade.

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