The french aircraft carrier had left the Toulon harbor last wednesday, October, 13th and was conducing the last trainings before starting the 4 months Agapanthe 2010 mission.
One day later, an isolation issue is detected in one of the eclectrical cabinet of the rear propulsive section. The issue is minor, but the commandant decides to return to Toulon for a quick repair stop of few hours.
Unfortunately, the problem proves to be more complex than expected, and it appears that the cause of the initial failure was due to a defective safety valve which must be replaced. The operation should take 3 weeks as it requires to stop all the rear propulsive section of the ship.
Before going to the Indian ocean, exercices with the greek and italian navies/air forces were planned. They will most likely be canceled while those with Saudi Arabia and India can probably be posponed.
The 10 Rafale F3 of the carrier air wing will get back to the Hyeres naval base where they will continue their training.
This is the 3rd time that the flag ship of the french navy must cancel a major deployment because of a failure. Those kind of failures are normal for a ship of that complexity, but they shouldn't jeopardize the french political and military schedule and duties. This is the reason why strategic units like aircraft carriers always have, at least, one sister ship ready to replace their alter-ego if needed.
In 2002, french president Chirac had decided to build a second aircraft carrier for that pupose (PA2 project). After several studies, a CTOL version of the british CVF was chosen in 2005-2006. Everything was on track but president Sarkozy elected in 2007 postponed the project until 2012, the end of his mandat. Which of course means, that he will not take a decision, and that the PA2 will be posponed... again.
hopefully, this misadventure will force the french government to take some actions in order to get the PA2 into service in time.
picture : A rafale on the deck of the Charles de Gaulle - © Jean-Louis Venne