France deployed an aircraft carrier in the Gulf today as part of the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq, a defence ministry official said.
“The integration of the Charles de Gaulle in the operation... (in Iraq) begins this morning,” a member of Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s staff told AFP as his entourage made its way to the carrier.
The first Rafale fighter jet took off in the morning from the Charles de Gaulle as it sailed about 200 kilometres (120 miles) off the coast north of Bahrain in the direction of Iraq.
The warship’s deployment will cut in half the time it takes for the planes to reach Iraq for strikes against IS from their base in the United Arab Emirates.
France launched Operation Chammal in support of the US-led coalition against IS in September.
It has nine Rafale and six Mirage fighters operating in Iraq from bases in Jordan and the UAE, along with a maritime patrol and a refuelling aircraft.