French Carrier Returning To Port After COVID-19 Outbreak

Charles de Gaulle
Credit: U.S. Navy

France is returning its aircraft carrier to port two weeks earlier than planned after 40 sailors on board were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

The 40,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will return to Toulon in mid-April, cutting short a training deployment in the Atlantic, the French Ministry of Armies announced on April 8.

French Navy officials said the sailors were subject to enhanced monitoring and have been placed in isolation, while the medical facilities on board are “being reinforced.”

Additional medical personnel have also been dispatched to the ship to investigate the cases and prevent the spread of the virus on board.

The ship has been at sea since Jan. 21, operating in the Mediterranean Sea to support the U.S.-led operation in Iraq and Syria. 

More recently it has been operating in the North Sea, the Dassault Rafales on board exercising with fighters from the Netherlands, including Dutch F-35s.

The incident follows the controversial sacking of Capt. Brett Crozier of the U.S. Navy carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt after a letter he wrote criticizing the Navy’s response to a COVID-19 outbreak on the carrier was leaked. The ship is now anchored in Guam and more than 200 sailors on board have been diagnosed with the illness. The furor over Crozier’s sacking led to the subsequent resignation of Navy Acting Secretary Thomas Modly on April 7.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.