French carrier needs weeks of repairs before Afghan mission

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France's only aircraft carrier needs weeks for repairs after returning to port a day after it set off to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and support NATO's Afghan mission, the military said Saturday.

Naval spokesman Captain Hugues d'Argentre had said Thursday it would take a few days to carry out the necessary repairs on the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle as it headed back to its home port of Toulon.

"A fault was found in the insulation of an electrical cabinet in the propulsion system," the officer said.

"This electrical insulation problem has been solved," the SIRPA military information service said Saturday, but added: "The investigation into what caused the electrical fault showed a dysfunction of a safety valve."

Following an analysis "the decision was taken Saturday October 16 to make a routine change of the valve" which will take "several weeks".

The Charles de Gaulle and its escort group -- two frigates, an attack submarine and a refuelling tanker -- set sail from Toulon on Wednesday and had been due to spend four months patrolling the Indian Ocean to fight piracy and support NATO troops in Afghanistan.

France is the only country apart from the United States to operate a full size nuclear-powered carrier capable of launching fixed-wing jets, but the ship has been plagued with technical problems since it was launched in 1994.

In November 2000 the Charles de Gaulle limped back to port after one of its huge propellers snapped off in mid-Atlantic, and between July 2007 and December 2008 it was taken out of service for a major refit.

© 2010 AFP

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