France’s Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier to deploy under NATO command for first time

France  Eric GaillardPool via AP
© Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP

The Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier will deploy under NATO command for the first time for mission in the Mediterranean intended to show France's commitment to the alliance, notably in the face of Russia's threat in Ukraine.

The mission around the French Navy's flagship Charles-de-Gaulle brings together vessels from several countries, including the United States, Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, commander of the French carrier strike Jacques Mallard said on Thursday.

For two weeks, starting 22 April, all elements in the mission, called Akila, will report to Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, a command located in Oeiras, Portugal.

“This is the first time that we put the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier and its escort, including a nuclear-powered attack submarine, under the operational control of NATO… during an operational vigilance activity, which is much more significant than an exercise,” said French Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, NATO's maritime second-in-command, told the AFP news agency.

NATO command
Some French aircraft and individual vessels have previously operated under NATO command, but the carrier, with its Rafale jets on board, has always remained under French control.

Malterre said that France can “reclaim the mandate” at any time during the operation, “and with a snap of the fingers recover national command during the operation, if necessary”.

France has drawn closer to the NATO alliance since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and by putting the star of its navy under its command, it is sending a message to show its engagement.

It is to “show that we are an ally that is doing what everyone else is doing, but also to understand how the chain of command works,” Mallard told reporters, adding that the goal is to “reinforce the defensive and deterrent posture of the alliance”.

The Charles de Gaulle, with a crew of about 1,200, set off from the port of Toulon in January after it was out of action for maintenance in May of last year.

The United States put one of its aircraft carriers under NATO operational control in 2022 for the first time since the Cold War, in response to the war in Ukraine, and the UK did the same in 2023.

(with AFP)