The French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its associated Carrier Strike Group (CSG) are contributing to air patrols with Allies over NATO’s Eastern Flank, as part of its current CLEMENCEAU 22 deployment in the Mediterranean. The carrier aircraft Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy. The Charles de Gaulle and the CSG began their long operational deployment on February 1 and will run until April. The entire Carrier Strike Group was re-tasked recently to further support NATO Allies in the current dynamic environment on the Alliance’s eastern borders.
At the request of Croatian authorities, a surveillance flight was conducted over after the crash of a suspicious drone near Zagreb on March 3. E2-C Hawkeye airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft of French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle monitored the airspace in coordination with authorities. The Russian-made unmanned aircraft crossed Romania and Hungary before entering Croatia and slamming late Thursday into a field near a student dormitory. Some 40 parked cars were damaged but no one was injured after a loud blast. Soviet-era Tu-141 “Strizh” reconnaissance drone flew for over 40 minutes over Hungary and six to seven minutes over Croatia before crashing.
Various aircraft are part of the French Navy Carrier Strike Group, including Rafale M fighters, critical to NATO’s enhanced Air Policing and Vigilance missions. The French Naval Aviation fighters are conducting patrols in the skies of NATO Allies, Romania, and Bulgaria. NATO currently has over 130 aircraft on alert actively defending Allied airspace, maintaining 24/7 patrols in the skies along NATO’s Eastern borders. The main purpose of these integrations is to maintain and enhance interoperability and collective cohesion with NATO Allies and their assets.
The French Carrier Strike Group is deployed in a complex strategic environment, whose airpower contributions are important for enhancing the defensive posture of the Alliance. The CSG has integrated with various NATO allies while on its deployment, such as the U.S. Navy’s USS Harry S. Truman CSG. Over the past week, the French CSG have launched Rafale and E-2C Hawkeye flights as part of NATO’s enhanced Vigilance mission, contributing to NATO airpower’s deterrent and defensive posture on the Eastern Flank of the Alliance. All 20 French Rafale M fighters in the CSG’s are in their latest standard known as “F3R” – a first for the French navy.