French aircraft carrier Clemenceau (R98)

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Clemenceau aircraft carrier
Career (France)
Namesake: Georges Clemenceau
Builder: Brest shipyard
Laid down: November 1955
Launched: 21 December 1957
Commissioned: 22 November 1961
Decommissioned: 1 October 1997
Homeport: Brest
Nickname: Clem
Fate: Scrapped 2009-2010
General characteristics
Class & type: Clemenceau class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 22,000 tons (standard)
32,780 tons (loaded)
Length: 265 m (869 ft)
Beam: 51.2 m (168 ft)
Draught: 8.6 m (28 ft)
Propulsion: 6 Indret boilers
4 steam turbines
126,000 shp
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Capacity: 582 air group personnel
Complement: 1,338 (aircraft carrier)
984 (helicopter carrier)
Sensors and
processing systems:
1 DRBV-23B air sentry radar
1 DRBV-50 low altitude or surface sentry radar (later replaced by a DRBV-15)
1 NRBA-50 approach radar
2 DRBI-10 tri-dimensional air sentry radar
Multiple DRBN-34 navigation radars
Multiple DRBC-31 fire direction radars (later replaced by DRBC-32C radars)
Armament: 8 100 mm turrets (of which 4 replaced in the 1990s by 2 SACP Crotale EDIR systems with 52 missiles)
5 12.7 mm machine guns
Aircraft carried: Up to 40 aircraft:
15 Super Étendard
4 Étendard IVP
8 F-8E(FN) Crusader
8 Alizé
2 Dauphin Pedro
2 Super Frelon

Clemenceau (R 98), often affectionately called "le Clem", was the French Navy's sixth aircraft carrier and the lead ship of her class. She served from 1961 to 1997. She 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. She was dismantled and recycled by Able UK at Graythorp, Hartlepool, England under the name Q-790.[1][2]

The Clemenceau class aircraft carriers are of conventional CATOBAR design. The landing area is 165.5m long by 29.5m wide; it is angled at 8 degrees off of the ship's axis. The flight deck is 265m 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 52m catapults is at the bow to port, the aft catapult is on the angled landing deck. The hangar deck dimensions are 152m by 22-24m with 7m overhead.[3]


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 was a small but effective design, using elements of United States carrier design, but to 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.

Clemenceau went through a major refit from September 1977 to November 1978. She was again refitted with new defensive systems from 1 September 1985 to 31 August 1987, including replacement of four of the 100 mm guns with a pair of Crotale surface-to-air missile launchers.

Clemenceau and her sister ship Foch served as the mainstays of the French fleet. During her career, Clemenceau sailed more than 1,000,000 nautical miles (2,000,000 km) in 3,125 days at sea, all over the world.


1967 Participated in search for lost submarine Minerve in the Mediterranean when contact was lost 25 nautical miles (46 km) from returning to port at Toulon.[4] To this day no trace of the Minerve has been found.[5]

1968 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, the naval force present around two atolls represented more than 40% of the tonnage of the entire French navy. Clemenceau was flagship of a fleet composed of forty ships which massed more than 120,000 tons displacement.[6]

1974 Independence of Djibouti, deployed off the African coast in the Indian Ocean.

1982–1984 Lebanese Civil War. Deployed in the east Mediterranean she rotated with the Foch, providing constant on-station air support to French peacekeepers.[7]

1987–1988 Operation Prométhée. The ship receives orders to position in Gulf of Oman, to protect French merchant traffic in Persian gulf from Iranian speedboats during Iran–Iraq War. She arrived in area on 15 August. Iranian P-3 Orion intercepted by F-8 Crusader on CAP. The Promethee battle force, Task Force 623, included Clémenceau, the mine countermeasures support ship Loire, and Durance-class tankers Meuse,Var, and Marne.

1990, the ship escorted by the cruiser Colbert and the fuel tanker Var, transported 40 helicopters (SA-341F/ -342 Gazelles, SA-330 Pumas), three Br-1050 Alizés and trucks to Iraq during 'Desert storm & Desert shield'.[8]

1993–1996 several tours including combat operations and air patrol over former Yugoslavia [9] during operation 'Balbuzard' to support the UN's troops.

Disposal controversy[edit]

In December 2004, before Clemenceau set sail for India, Greenpeace started protesting against France's plans to outsource the scrapping of the 27,000-ton warship laden with asbestos, PCBs, lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals in India in violation of the Basel Convention.

On 31 December 2005, Clemenceau left the French port of Toulon to be dismantled in Alang, Gujarat, India. On 6 January 2006 the Supreme Court of India temporarily denied access to Alang.[10] Six days later the ship reached Egypt, where she was boarded by two Greenpeace activists.[11] Egyptian authorities denied access to the Suez Canal.

On 15 January, the ship was finally allowed to pass. This decision was heavily criticised by Greenpeace and other environmental groups.[12] That same day French President Jacques Chirac ordered Clemenceau to return to French waters and remain on standby following a ruling by France's highest administrative court, the Conseil d'État.[13]

After she had been lying off the French naval port at Brest for over two years, Able UK issued a press release on 1 July 2008 confirming that they had been given the contract to dismantle the Clémenceau at its TERRC (Teesside Environmental Reclamation & Recycling Centre) facility at Graythorp, Hartlepool. Special dispensation was given to Able by the UK HSE to handle the asbestos content of the carrier which would normally have been prohibited by its Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.[14]

The vessel was moved to Able UK after this was authorised by court proceedings of 29 September 2008, and Clemenceau arrived at Graythorp on Sunday, 8 February 2009.[15]

The dismantling of the ship started on 18 November 2009. On 5 February 2010, there was a fire on board.[16] Work resumed after several days delay[17] and the break-up was completed by the end of 2010.[18] Although highly controversial, the quality of the dismantling operation was complimented by independent environmental groups.[19]

General arrangement[edit]

1 : 100mm cannon ; 2 : Weapons control radar type DRBC-31 ; 3 : Aircraft lift ; 4 : 15 tonne crane ; 5 : Aircraft approach radar type NRBA-50 ; 6 : Altitude radar type DRBI-10 ; 7 : Funnel ; 8 : Proximity radar type DRBV-20 ; 9 : TACAN Antenna; 10 : Combined low altitude and surface-to-air radar type DRBV-50 ; 11 : Proximity radar type DRBV-23 ; 12 : Altitude radar type DRBI-10 ; 13 : Weapons control radar type DRBC-31

In popular culture[edit]

  • A 1985 television commercial for the Citroën Visa GTI car was shot aboard Clemenceau. A race pits the car against a Dassault Étendard IV; both continue off the end of the carrier, with the small automobile briefly keeping pace with the aircraft before plummeting into the ocean. Seconds later, though, the car triumphantly emerges, perched on the foredeck of a surfacing Agosta class submarine.


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "New ghost ship heads to Teesside". BBC News. 8 February 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  2. ^ "Ghost ships work completed". Hartlepool Mail. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Roche, Jean-Michel (2012). "Historique du sous-marin Minerve". Retrieved 6 February 2013.  (French)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Clemenceau
  8. ^ CV Clemenceau & Foch
  9. ^ History of the CV Clemenceau
  10. ^ Zubair Ahmed (2006-01-06). "Stay out, India tells toxic ship". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  11. ^ "Egypt asks toxic ship for proof". BBC News. 2006-01-12. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  12. ^ "Egypt grants 'toxic' ship passage". BBC News. 2006-01-15. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  13. ^ "Chirac orders 'toxic' ship home". BBC News. 2006-01-16. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  14. ^ Charles Bremmer (2008-07-02). "Hartlepool to break up France's toxic flagship Clemenceau". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  15. ^ "Ghost ship arrives in north-east". BBC News. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  16. ^ "Hartlepool 'ghost ship' fire tackled by crews". BBC. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  17. ^ "Work resumes on fire-hit carrier Clemenceau on Teeside". BBC. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  18. ^ "Q790/Le Clemenceau update". Able UK Ltd. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  19. ^ "Praise for 'toxic' ship scrapping". BBC News Online. 4 January 2010. "The dismantling of the former Clemenceau is a positive and pioneering operation in Europe" 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]