French carrier sets off on Afghan mission
France's flagship and only aircraft carrier was to set sail Wednesday on a four-month mission to fight piracy and terrorism in the Indian Ocean and support NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle and its escort group -- two frigates, an attack submarine and a refuelling tanker -- was to set sail from its home port of Toulon after a refit lasting several months, officers said.
In all, the battle group carries 3,000 sailors and 27 aircraft: ten Rafale F3 fighters, 12 Super Etendard attack jets, two Hawkeye early warning planes and three helicopters.
Rear Admiral Jean-Louis Kerignard, commander of the group, said the force would help allied navies fight piracy off the coast of Somalia and send jets to support NATO in the skies above Afghanistan.
The ships will also train alongside allies from Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, Greece and the United Arab Emirates and make two stopovers at the French base in Djibouti before returning to France in February 2011.
© 2010 AFP