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US, French Carriers Begin Combined Airstrikes Against ISIS

A C-2A Greyhound assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman launches over the Gulf of Oman from the French navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, Jan. 15, 2014. Lorenzo J. Burleson/U.S. Navy
A C-2A Greyhound assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman launches over the Gulf of Oman from the French navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, Jan. 15, 2014. Lorenzo J. Burleson/U.S. Navy

MANAMA, Bahrain -- A U.S and French carrier strike group have teamed up to conduct operations against the Islamic State group.

Operating in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf, the French carrier Charles de Gaulle launched its first raid Monday against militant forces in Iraq.

France is the only other country to employ a carrier battle group as part of coalition efforts to destroy the Islamic State.

"We're are all in this together and having the Charles De Gaulle Strike Group in the region gives the coalition more options to help defeat this common threat," U.S. 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Hontz said.

French officials said a port visit to Bahrain last week was important to finalize some of the "operational details" with U.S. 5th Fleet for "integrating" the French carrier group with the Vinson.

Such integration isn't a new occurrence.

For five weeks last year, U.S. F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets landed and conducted operations from the Charles de Gaulle, and French aircraft landed and launched from the aircraft carrier the USS Harry S. Truman, as part of a combined operations exercise.

The 42,000-ton Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French fleet. It is the only one outside the U.S. Navy to use the so-called Catobar (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system, whereby planes are launched by catapults and recovered by arrestor wires.

Since the carrier was commissioned in 2001, its warplanes have repeatedly participated in combat operations in Afghanistan. The ship also took part in NATO's bombing campaign in Libya in 2011.

Despite the training last year, the Charles de Gaulle crew has not yet worked alongside the Vinson crew. The "two strike groups have to get used to each other," Hontz said.

Aircraft and personnel will operate predominantly from their own ships for the current mission. "With that said, forces from both strike groups will take every opportunity to train with the each other. This type of training is essential for both teams to be on the same page."

The Vinson has been operating in the Middle East since October. The entire strike group left its San Diego home on Aug. 22 with about 6,200 sailors on a scheduled 10-month deployment to the Western Pacific and the Middle East.

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