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After 1.3 billion euro makeover, French aircraft carrier returns to sea

After 1.3 billion euro makeover, French aircraft carrier returns to sea

Rafale jet fighters fly above the aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle", after the completion of its 18 month-long renovation off Toulon, France, November 8, 2018.

ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER CHARLES DE GAULLE (Reuters) - Dressed in a khaki uniform and helmet, a pilot jumps into a Rafale fighter jet under the watchful gaze of France's armed forces minister, Florence Parly, as the deck of the Charles de Gaulle carrier prepares for its first activity in 18 months.

Europe's only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the 260-metre-long (850-ft) vessel, which carries 1,700 personnel and whose tonnage is equal to four Eiffel Towers, is due to be deployed in early February in the Indian Ocean, according to military sources.

Faced with the "profound change in the naval strategic panorama", including the expansionist aims of Beijing in the South China Sea, France considers the aircraft carrier of incomparable "tactical and political value", said Admiral Christophe Prazuck, Chief of Staff of the French Navy.

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