Charles de Gaulle has been returned to the French Navy following the completion of the aircraft carrier's mid-life update, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French procurement agency, and Naval Group announced on 8 November.
The carrier will be ready to conduct operations with its entire naval air group starting in the first quarter of 2019, said the DGA, which along with France's Service du Soutien de la Flotte (Fleet Support Service: SSF), oversaw the refit under the prime contractorship of Naval Group. Original equipment manufacturers TechnicAtome, Thales, and Safran, non-defence companies, and small- and medium-size enterprises were also involved in the refit.
Naval Group said the French Navy received the carrier on 16 October, following the completion of the recertification of its systems. The refit will enable Charles de Gaulle to maintain its capabilities until its retirement from service around 2038, according to the DGA.
The 18-month overhaul and modernisation of the carrier in the southern French port of Toulon covered the combat system, aircraft maintenance facilities, and the platform. A new longer-range 3D air surveillance radar and more accurate navigation radars were installed, the networks were digitised, the control room was completely replaced, and the telecommunication systems were modernised. The maintenance hangars, aircraft spaces, and deck-landing systems were converted to an "all-Rafale" configuration optimised for the naval version of the Rafale combat aircraft following the retirement from service of the Super-Etendard Modernisé. The carrier's automation systems and automatic stabilisation and steering control system were modernised, two units of the cooling system were replaced, the control simulator was refitted, and one of the two galleys was refurbished.
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