nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle was constructed at the
DCN Brest naval shipyard in Brittany. The ship was launched in May 1994 and
commissioned in September 2000, following sea trials which began in January
1999. As a result of trials the landing deck has been lengthened by 4.4m to
enable the E-2C to land and clear the deck quickly. The carrier was due to
enter service in December 2000, but, following the breakage of a propeller
blade during long-distance trials, this was delayed to April 2001. In June
2001, the carrier took part in exercises in the Mediterranean and in
December 2001 left to take part in Operation Enduring Freedom and is
stationed in the Arabian Gulf.
The ship can operate a fleet of up to 40 aircraft: Rafale M (range
3,340km), Super Etendard (range 1,682km) and three E-2C Hawkeye airborne
early warning aircraft. The ship will also support the AS 565 Panther or NH
The main deck consists of a main runway angled at 8.5° to the ship's axis
and an aircraft launch area forward of the island. These are each equipped
with a USN Type C13 catapult, capable of launching one aircraft per minute.
The runway is 195m long and the whole deck measures 260 x 64m. The carrier
is fitted with the EADS (Matra Defense) DALAS laser landing aid.
The carrier is fitted with the SATRAP computerised, integrated
stabilisation system designed to maintain stabilisation to within 0.5° of
horizontal, allowing aircraft to be operated up to Sea State 5/6. As well as
the carrier's two pairs of active stabilising fins and twin rudders, the
system has two computer-controlled compensation units which consist of two
rail tracks for trains carrying 22t of deadweight. These tracks run
transversely below the flight deck. This system is designed to compensate
for wind and heel and control roll, yaw and surge.
The ship's weapons are managed by a Senit Combat Management System, which
has the capacity to track up to 2,000 targets. The weapon control system
consists of two Vigy 105 optronic directors supplied by Sagem. The ship also
has two Sagem Vampir search and track systems.