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|Laid down:||November 1955|
|Launched:||21 December 1957|
|Commissioned:||22 November 1961|
|Decommissioned:||1 October 1997|
|Class and type:||Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier|
|Length:||265 m (869 ft)|
|Beam:||51.2 m (168 ft)|
|Draught:||8.6 m (28 ft)|
|Propulsion:||4 steam turbines|
|Speed:||32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)|
|Capacity:||582 air group personnel|
Clemenceau (French pronunciation: [klemɑ̃so]), often affectionately called le Clem, was the French Navy's sixth aircraft carrier and the lead ship of her class. The carrier served from 1961 to 1997, and was dismantled and recycled in 2009. The carrier was the second French warship to be named after Georges Clemenceau, the first being a Richelieu-class battleship laid down in 1939 but never finished.
The Clemenceau and her sister ship the Foch served as the mainstays of the French fleet. During the carrier's career, the Clemenceau sailed more than 1,000,000 nautical miles (1,900,000 km; 1,200,000 mi) during 3,125 days at sea. She was equipped to handle nuclear munitions to be delivered by her air complement, and was later modified to fire nuclear-capable missiles. She took part in numerous exercises and cruises, seeing action during the Lebanese Civil War, Gulf War and in air operations over the former-Yugoslavia.
The development of the Clemenceau represented France's effort to produce its own class of multi-role aircraft carriers to replace the American and British ships provided at the end of World War II. The ship had a small but effective design, using some of the elements of United States carriers, but on a smaller scale. The vessels were given relatively heavy gun armament for their size, and some stability problems were encountered which required bulging the hull.
The Clemenceau-class aircraft carriers are of conventional CATOBAR design. The landing area is 165.5 m (543 ft) long by 29.5 m (97 ft) wide; it is angled at 8 degrees off of the ship's axis. The flight deck is 265 m (869 ft) long. The forward aircraft elevator is to starboard, and the rear elevator is positioned on the deck edge to save hangar space. The forward of two 52 m (171 ft) catapults is at the bow to port, the aft catapult is on the angled landing deck. The hangar deck dimensions are 152 m (499 ft) by 22 m (72 ft)-24 m (79 ft) with 7 m (23 ft) overhead.
The Clemenceau went through a major refit from September 1977 to November 1978. She was refitted again with new defensive systems from 1 September 1985 to 31 August 1987, this included the replacement of four of the 100 mm guns with a pair of Crotale surface-to-air missile launchers. She was modified in 1978 to enable her aircraft to deliver several AN 52 bombs. In 1993 she was modified again to take nuclear capable Air-Sol Moyenne Portée missiles.
Throughout the course of the aircraft carrier's lengthy career, it participated in the majority of French naval operations. From 12 January to 5 February 1962, the Clemenceau participated in a NATO exercise known as BigGame with the United States Sixth Fleet in the western Mediterranean as an anti-submarine aircraft carrier. This was followed from 9 March to 2 April with another NATO exercise called OTAN Dawn Breeze VII, in the Gibraltar zone.
In January 1968 the Clemenceau participated in the search for the lost submarine the Minerve in the Mediterranean when contact was lost 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi) from port at Toulon. To this day no trace of the Minerve has been found.
During the same year, the carrier was deployed to the south Pacific for French nuclear bomb testing in Polynesia including Canopus, the first French hydrogen bomb. With the deployment of the fleet, codenamed Alfa Force (French: Force Alfa), the naval force present around two atolls represented more than 40% of the tonnage of the entire French navy. The Clemenceau was the flagship of a fleet composed of forty ships.
During 1974–77 the Clemenceau was deployed off the African coast in the Indian Ocean in Operation Saphir I and Operation Saphir II in support of newly independent Djibouti. During the Lebanese Civil War the Clemenceau was deployed in the East Mediterranean in 1983–84. The carrier rotated with the Foch, providing constant on-station air support to French peacekeepers in the Multinational Force in Lebanon FSMB and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon UNIFIL. The carrier's main support engagement was in Operation Olifant. In 1987–1988 she participated in Operation Prométhée in the Gulf of Oman during the war between Iraq and Iran. The Promethée battle force (Task Force 623), included the Clemenceau, the mine counter-measures support ship the Loire, and Durance-class tankers the Meuse, the Var, and the Marne. In 1990, escorted by the cruiser Colbert and the tanker Var, she transported 40 helicopters, (SA-341F/ -342 Gazelles, SA-330 Pumas), three Br-1050 Alizés and trucks to Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The carrier was mainly engaged in Operation Salamandre in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea during the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait. During 1993 to 1996 the Clemenceau completed several tours including combat operations and air patrol over the former Yugoslavia in Operation Balbuzard (French: Opération Balbuzard) in order to support the UN's troops, then Salamandre in the Adriatic Sea during the Yugoslav Wars.
The Clemenceau has navigated in all the world's Oceans and Seas with a career total of more than one million nautical miles traveled, the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 48 times. The carrier has passed 3,125 days at sea, with 80,000 hours of function, and conducted more than 70,000 catapult-launches.
In 1983, the bâtiment would the be the first unit of the French Navy to embark female personnel. Three women were assigned on board : one maître principal, one secrétaire militaire and one premier maître.
Loyal to the tradition of the French Navy, the Clemenceau welcomed on board numerous fine art painters, some for a week and others for up to two months.
On 31 December 2005, the Clemenceau left Toulon to be dismantled in Alang, India despite protests about improper disposal and a lack of facilities for the management of toxic waste. On 6 January 2006 the Supreme Court of India temporarily denied access to Alang. After having been boarded by activists, held by Egyptian authorities, and then transiting the Suez Canal on 15 January, a court ruling by the Conseil d'État ordered the Clemenceau to return to French waters. Able UK based at the Graythorp yard near Hartlepool received a disassembly contract to use accepted practices in scrapping the ship. The dismantling started on 18 November 2009 and the break-up was completed by the end of 2010.
The dismantling of the former Clemenceau is a positive and pioneering operation in Europe
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