The De Gaulle and the Libyan Operation


10/11/2011 During a recent visit to Paris, Second Line of Defense sat down with Vice Admiral (Retired) Richard Wilmot-Roussel, now the naval advisor to the head of Dassault Aviation.  The Vice Admiral has had a wide-ranging naval career, including being the first Commander of the French Aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle.

SLD: As the first commander of the De Gaulle, you must have been proud of its role in the Libyan operation.

Wilmot-Roussel: I was.  And De Gaulle has had a couple of important impacts.

The Charles DeGaulle at homeport in Toulon Credit: French Ministry of Defense

First, by being closer to the strike zone, you can have much shorter time and more times for an attack by the combat aircraft.  My French Air Force colleagues needed 6-7 hours to reach their targets; from the De Gaulle one was doing this in one to two hours.  This creates a more cost effective solution.

Second, from a psychologically point in such operations, the close proximity of the air crews and pilots on the carrier creates a difference.  For the Air Force pilot, land based he can operate in a civilian-military setting.  There is no such luxury on the carrier.  You live, breath and eat 24/7 air operations with the team that will do the air operations.

As one French Chief of Naval Operations commented about the role of the French carrier in an earlier operation: “I was impressed by the difference of the people who were on board the aircraft carrier who were totally concerned by the mission, even when they are not flying, and