French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has berthed at Changi Naval Base.
According to CNA, the aircraft carrier arrived here as part of its five-month deployment in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, two areas of French strategic interest, from March to July 2019.
The deployment has been dubbed Mission Clemenceau.
The aircraft carrier is a nuclear-powered vessel, with a displacement weight (that is, the volume of water displaced by the vessel while floating freely) of 42,000 tonnes and a length of 262 metres, The National Interest reported.
According to The Straits Times (ST) the vessel is manned by about 1,950 sailors.
Vessel will stay in Singapore through the period of the Shangri-La Dialogue
ST further reported that the vessel will be in Singapore during the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual Asia defence forum, which runs from May 31 to June 2.
The vessel is also accompanied by a carrier strike group, known as Task Force 473, which consists of the following:
- Rafale fighter jets,
- A naval multi-purpose helicopter,
- Two Hawkeye early warning aircraft,
- Three multi-mission frigates,
- A supply ship, and
- A nuclear attack submarine.
Very excited & proud to welcome the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to Singapore! 🇫🇷 From March to July 2019, France is deploying its carrier strike group, formed as Task Force 473, around the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its air wing. @MarineNationale pic.twitter.com/BrQZauSV4q— France in Singapore (@FranceinSG) May 28, 2019
Aircraft carrier will participate in bilateral exercises with SAF
The aircraft carrier will participate in bilateral exercises with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) during its time here, both CNA and ST reported.
This includes an amphibious exercise with the Singapore Navy involving frigates, naval units, and fighter jets from the Singapore Air Force.
French Ambassador to Singapore Marc Abensour said that the rationale behind the exercises is to demonstrate French commitment to the security of the region:
"France is also a security provider in the region, and that is well-illustrated through our shared commitment to freedom of navigation and of overflight."
The Commander of Task 473, Rear-Admiral Olivier Lebas, said that the deployment aims to enhance their relationship with regional partners:
"This deployment is about strengthening, fostering exchanges with our strategic partners by developing strong links, common work habits, tactical cooperation and mutual knowledge which are essential to operational efficiency."
Lebas added that the French navy is not intending to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea:
"It's just the way we have to operate and to meet our partners everywhere in the world (by using freedom of navigation). We are neighbouring this region and so it's important to meet our partners regularly here."
Flagship of French naval might
It is not a stretch to say that the Charles de Gaulle is a projection of French power overseas.
Named after the leader of the French Resistance in World War II who became a French president, the ship was previously deployed at major conflict zones, such as the Middle East, as part of the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
National Interest reported that the aircraft carrier was deployed twice to the Middle East in 2015 and once in 2016.
ST reported that it was deployed again in March 2019 against ISIS, as part of the current Mission Clemenceau.
According to The Guardian, its first deployment to the Middle East in January 2015 came after the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks, while its second deployment in November 2015 eased the pressure on the 12 French jets operating against ISIS from bases in Jordan and the UAE.
Additionally, the ship participated in the 2001 Afghanistan war and the NATO bombing campaign of Libya in 2011, National Interest further reported.
The Charles de Gaulle last docked in Singapore in 2002, 17 years ago.
Before returning to Toulon in July, the aircraft carrier will take part in bilateral exercises with the Egyptian army.
Top photo from the Embassy of France in Singapore Twitter