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Exclusive Interview With French Carrier Strike Group Commander

Exclusive Interview With French Carrier Strike Group Commander
  • PublishedApril 12, 2022
The French Navy's Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group in the eastern mediterranean
The French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group in the eastern mediterranean

Back to home port after two months of operation in mediterranean Sea, Rear Admiral Christophe Cluzel, commander of the French Carrier Strike Group, honored us by answering our questions about CLEMENCEAU 22 operation.

Rear Admiral Christophe Cluzel, commander of Task Force 473
Rear Admiral Christophe Cluzel, Commander of French Carrier Strike Group

Admiral, after two months of CLEMENCEAU 22 operation, what is your assessment of the deployment of the Carrier Strike Group?

CLEMENCEAU 22 is a true success. The French carrier strike group (CSG) showed its capabilities to maintain a high level of independent situational awareness, to enhance France’s attachment to freedom of action and to freedom of maritime and air navigation.

Besides, we participated in the protection of the European continent while France took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months (from January, 1st to June, 30st 2022). The CSG also contributed to fight against Islamic terrorism in the Middle East through its participation to the INHERENT RESOLVE operation.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the CSG redirected quickly its operational effort by participating actively to the reinforcement of the deterrent and defensive posture of NATO in Eastern Europe.

The success of our mission can be illustrated by these key figures:

  • more than 70 combat missions in direct support of INHERENT RESOLVE
  • up to 15 E-2C missions and 50 Rafale Marine missions in direct support of enhanced Vigilance Activities (e-VA) on the eastern flank of NATO’s territories
  • up to 16 surveillance missions in the sky of Bosnia- Herzegovina in support of the European mission EUFOR ALTHEA
  • all included, more than 2 300 hours of flight for the Carrier Air Wing embarked on board the nuclear Carrier Charles de Gaulle

To what extent the deployment of the CSG contributes to the freedom of navigation in the Mediterranean?

This deployment took place in a complex strategic environment with an increasing density of warships in the Mediterranean sea. France aims at securing a permanent naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, as well as maintaining awareness on the respect of the international law on freedom of navigation.

Through the deployment of the carrier strike group, France positioned an air-sea force to secure its capabilities of autonomous situational assessment and intervention. Thanks to its robust and reactive defensive posture, we remained ready to respond to any possible attempt of obstruction to freedom of action or to any attack on the territorial integrity of an ally. We strived to avoid both surprise and miscalculation.

How were the naval and aeronautical assets articulated to monitor the maritime area?

What is the range of your forces?

The CSG brings together an international air-sea force, with multi-domain military capabilities thanks to its multiple and modern sensors (at sea, under the sea, in the air, on land, in cyberspace and in electromagnetic fields).

It contributes simultaneously to control vast air and sea spaces, to maintain an autonomous situation assessment capability, to project power far and in depth and to enter first into a theatre, even in a contested environment. It’s a truly strategic asset, able to deliver a graduate range of options. The CSG is capable of traveling 550 nautical miles per day, with a freedom of movement guaranteed by its nuclear powering and the global nature of the maritime space itself.

TF 473 is an international force: how joint operational actions take shape within the framework of NATO or the EU?

As a real lever for cooperation with regional partners, the TF 473 integrates units from various navies of the European Union and NATO: the Greek Eli-class frigate Adrias and the Hellenic frigate Hydra, Greek submarines, the Spanish F100-class destroyer Juan de Borbon and the American Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross were integrated into the TF 473 during CLEMENCEAU 22. These naval assets were also joined by a Belgian NH90 helicopter detachment, on board the French destroyer Forbin, and reinforced by American P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Moreover, during the mission, the CSG has shown its capability to support France’s operational commitments to the European Union through an active participation within European operation such as EUNAVFORMED IRINI. We also contributed to European Union operation EUFOR ALTHEA by leading surveillance missions in the air space of Bosnia-Herzegovina, through the projection of our Rafale Marine.

Within NATO, we were engaged in support to the enhanced Vigilance Activities (e-VA) over Romania and Bulgaria to secure and defend the territorial integrity of our Eastern Allies.

Truman and Cavour and Charles de Gaulle Conduct Joint Operates
Truman, Cavour and Charles de Gaulle conducted Joint Operation in Ionian Sea

What were the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the Carrier Strike Group deployment? Have you observed any change of behavior from Russian units?

After we significantly contributed to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) to enhance the French commitment in the fight against Daesh in the Middle East, we suspended our OIR flights the day Russia launched its military operation against Ukraine. Our mission has been adapted to support NATO alongside our Eastern flank Allies and deter the further intervention of Russian forces.

Our aircraft fly over the Romanian or Bulgarian airspaces to support the NATO deterrent and defensive posture and contribute to the Alliance’s situation assessment in the maritime domain, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Central Mediterranean.

The Ukrainian crisis had indirect consequences in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an unusually high level of Russian naval and air assets in the area. In a relatively tiny space, this kind of density increases the risks of misunderstanding or miscalculation, including toward the civilian traffic. It could become a long term issue for global maritime security in the area.

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