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France Deploys Its Only Aircraft Carrier To Fight ISIS

In mid-October, just as Russian presence in Syria was ramping up and Putin unviled the creation of Russia's first air base in the region based in the Bassel al Assad air base (from where it could easily reach as far as the Suez Canal), we reported that in a previously disclosed move, the US would do something it has almost never done before: leave the Persian Gulf, and the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, with a "gap" in U.S. aircraft carrier support in a region that has traditionally been rather volatile.

 

Previously we wrote that while in 5th Fleet, the CVN-71 USS Theodore Roosevelt was the largest symbol in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS collation responsible for "1,812 combat sorties totaling 10,618 combat flight hours, taking on 14.5 million gallons of jet fuel and expending 1,085 precision-guided munitions," as part of Operation Inherent Resolve." It has

We concluded by saying that whatever the reason behind the US naval "gap" may be, one thing is clear: the departure of the Roosevelt comes at a particularly awkward time - just as Russia is setting up its own aicraft base in Syria.

We may have been too early.

As Reuters reported earlier today, just as one US carrier was leaving the middle east, another widely feared and respected geopolitical superpower was set to replace US carrier presence in the Middle East in the ongoing war against "ISIS" - France.

Earlier today, in a statement by the French presidency following a meeting of its defence cabinet, the government said it would send its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle warship, to the eastern Mediterranean for operations against Isis in both Syria and Iraq.

According to the Independent, "the deployment of the battle group alongside the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has been decided to participate in operations against Daesch and its affiliate groups," the statement said after a defense cabinet meeting, referring to the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The carrier is usually accompanied by an attack submarine, several frigates, refueling ships, as well as fighter jets and surveillance aircraft Reuters adds.

"The aircraft carrier will enable us to be more efficient in coordination with our allies," Hollande said at the inauguration of the new defense ministry headquarters in Paris

The Charles de Gaulle is the largest warship in western Europe, and the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier outside the US fleet. It can support up to 40 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

France launched its first air strikes against Isis in Syria in late September, in what was described as an act of self defence. "We will strike each time that our national security is at stake," the French presidency said. France was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and has also provided limited logistical support to Syrian rebels it considers moderate, including Kurds.

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Finally, those asking where the CVN-71 is currently (deep in the South China Sea next to the hotly contested Spratly islands), or the locations of the rest of the US Navy's key assets around the globe, the following map from Stratfor should provide the answer.