12 June 2013

The Richelieu (R91)

French Aircraft Carrier
Name:Richelieu (R91)
Ordered:3 February 1986
Laid down:14 April 1989
Launched:7 May 1994
Commissioned:18 May 2001
In service:Still in service as of 2013
Homeport:Toulon, France
General Characteristics
Class:Unique aircraft carrier
Displacement:37,085 tonnes (42,000 tonnes full load)
Length:261.4m (858 ft)
Beam:64.36m (211.2 ft)
Draught:9.43m (30.9 ft)
Propulsion:2 x K15 pressurized water reactors (PWR), 150 MW each.
4x diesel-electric.
Speed:27 knots (50 km/h)
Range:unlimited distance; 20-25 years
Endurance:45 days of food
Capacity:800 commandos, 500 tonnes of ammunition
Complement:Ship's company: 1,350; Air wing: 600
Armament:4x8 cell A-43 Sylvester launchers carrying the MBDA Aster 15 surface to air missile.
2x6 cell Sadral launchers carrying Mistral short range missiles.
8xGiat 20F2 20mm cannons
Aircraft carried:28-40 aircraft

The flagship of the French Navy. The Richelieu is the first French nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The Charles de Gaulle has been under construction since 2007 and will become the second once it completes its shakedown by 2015.

Link 16
On 11 October 2001, the frigate Cassard, four (4) AWACS aircraft and the Richelieu were involved in the successful trial of the Link 16 high-bandwith secure data network.

11/9 and the War on Terror
After the terrorist attack on Paris on 11 September 2001 the Richelieu was deployed to the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Eternal Justice. The ship was made the centerpiece of the NATO fleet in the Arabian Sea allowing France to control many operations in the conflict. American forces took the French lead but were never under French command. Contre-Amiral François Cluzel was theoretically in command of the entire NATO fleet, but American forces were independent.

Air battle over Arabian Sea
On 9 July 2004 eight (8) Pakistani fighter jets (all F-7PGs) flew out of Pakistani air space over Arabian Sea. They were making a line for the French task force at top speed. Four French Super Étendard intercepted them before the fleet launched missiles. All of the Pakistani fighters were destroyed and one of the French jets went down after suffering damage. The French aircrew and two of the Pakistani pilots were pulled from the waters.

President Pervez Musharraf claimed that the air group was a rogue element not operating under authority of the government of Pakistan. This incident is seen as the primary cause of Musharraf leaving office in 2005.

Invasion of Libya
In 2005, after the tracking of additional terror attacks in France to Muammar Gaddafi, Operation Harmattan begins with a massive NATO air campaign on Libya prior to 100,000 American, French, and British troops making a massive amphibious invasion (the amphibious assault portion under American command as Operation Shores of Tripoli).

The Richelieu coordinated the air campaign during the ten day bombing campaign. Afterwards her aircraft were responsible for covering the French and British transports making the assault on the beaches. During this campaign four aircraft from the Richelieu were shot down by anti-aircraft.

In December 2007 the Richelieu's first major overhaul began. Numerous improvements were made including new propellers which increased her speed. New weapon systems and fighters were added as well. The refit was completed in January 2009.

Mediterranean Operation
From March 2009 to May 2012 The Richelieu stayed in the Mediterranean Sea. Its mission was to support NATO operations in North Africa. The United States had by this point taken over fleet operations in the Arabian Sea.

The divergence point for this universe is 1985. The Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, was not destroyed by the French who decided it might be too politically dangerous to do so. Prime Minister Laurent Fabius does not have to give a statement on the incident which is one of a number of events that hurt his career as Prime Minister. Without the Rainbow Warrior incident he may have held on to his position long enough so that the Richelieu's name would not be changed to the Charles de Gaulle. At least that is the concept, given my very limited knowledge of French politics.

Beyond that a more aggressive French military would be required for the other changes. Perhaps the change of the Prime Ministers would lead to the French having a much more active role in Desert Storm in 1991. Then al-Qaeda would have to determine that attacking France on September 11 would be of greater benefit than attacking the United States.... not a very likely outcome no matter what France did in Desert Storm and beyond. Perhaps this timeline requires a second point of departure.

This ship is known as the Charles de Gaulle in the real world. The source of the image for the ship is the Wikipedia article on the Charles de Gaulle. That article was used as the inspiration and basis for this post.

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