French carrier returns to sea after repairs

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France's only aircraft carrier returned to sea Saturday after repairs that forced it to return to port only a day after it set off to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and support NATO's Afghan mission, the navy said Saturday.

The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle had turned back to its home port of Toulon on October 13 after a malfunction of a safety valve caused an electrical fault.

The navy said at the time it would take "several weeks" to replace the valve.

An official said Saturday the carrier would set off on its delayed mission after a "very short" period of working back up.

The Charles de Gaulle and its escort group -- two frigates, an attack submarine and a refuelling tanker -- are 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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