A French nuclear aircraft carrier entered the Persian Gulf and could begin airstrike missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, U.S. defense officials told the U.S. Naval Institute’s online news site USNI News Friday. The ship Charles de Gaulle and its fleet will join American carrier USS Carl Vinson in bombing the extremist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“They’re in the [Persian] Gulf,” a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes -- dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve -- told USNI News. “They haven’t gone operational yet but they probably will soon.”
The ship crossed the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf on Feb. 15, after completing air support missions in Djibouti from the Gulf of Aden, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Defense. The Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy and the largest Western European warship currently in commission. The deployment of the French marine battle group is expected to last until at least May, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The ship will work in cooperation with the Carl Vinson, a massive American aircraft carrier in the northern Arabian Gulf that launches strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria each day, KPBS in San Diego reported.
French President Francois Hollande said last month the Charles de Gaulle was ready for use in military operations against ISIS and will work alongside coalition forces fighting the militants. That announcement came one week after Islamist militants stormed the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 17 people. While onboard the Charles de Gaulle, Hollande said the Jan. 7 attack “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier,” The Associated Press reported.
France was the first to join the United States in airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in December that French planes had completed about 130 missions -- mostly intelligence-gathering operations -- as part of the country’s campaign against ISIS called Operation Chammal, according to Agence France-Presse.