France deployed its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Persian Gulf on Monday to aid in the offensive against the Islamic State group in Iraq, a French defense ministry official said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). France was one of the first countries to join the U.S. in carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.
"The integration of the Charles de Gaulle in the operation... (in Iraq) begins this morning," a member of the french Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's staff told AFP.
French authorities reportedly said that the first Rafale fighter jet took off from the Charles de Gaulle early Monday as the vessel sailed about 120 miles off the coast of Bahrain.
The carrier is the largest Western European warship currently in commission and can carry up to 25 aircraft, including Super Etendard strike fighter jets, Rafale M multirole fighter jets and surface-to-air Aster missiles, according to media reports.
The deployment of the vessel comes days after French President Francois Hollande said that the Charles de Gaulle would be used in military operations against ISIS, and will work alongside the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting the militants in Iraq. Hollande's announcement was made a week after a series of attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of 20 people, including three Islamist militants. Hollande said, at the time, that the Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier.”