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The French carrier battle group hit to the heart. The situation minimized by the armies (v3)

(B2) The situation on the carrier battle group is not at all what was announced at the start. More than 50% of sailors could be infected with the coronavirus. The question of responsibility for having maintained the exercise is now raised, including at the political level

668 cases have already been detected positive for Covid-19 on the soldiers participating in task force 473 – naval air group formed around the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle – indicates the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, in a communicated published on Thursday (April 16) using figures from two days ago. A very tentative result. " On the evening of April 14, 30% of these tests have not yet delivered their results ».

Hawheke pilots based in Lann-Bihoué return from the Foch mission (credit: DICOD / EMA)

Sailors of the aircraft carrier mainly concerned

The vast majority of these tests “concerns sailors from the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle specifies the official communication. The others concerned are not mentioned. It is only known that the anti-submarine frigate La Motte Piquet - based in Brest - which accompanied the 'Charles' did not have many contaminated and was able to return to sea. And that sailors from the air defense frigate Chevalier Paul like the supply command building Somme, were also affected.

Analysis and comments

In the state of the communication, voluntarily incomplete, of the armies, the questions remain numerous.

A contamination rate greater than 50%?

We are facing a much more serious case than the official communication wanted to say (40 suspects). If we rely on the figure indicated, of the 1767 soldiers tested, only 70% (approximately!) of the tests are known, i.e. a number of approximately 1250. We thus arrive at a contamination rate of 54% on the soldiers concerned and not 30% as one might think. The final rate therefore remains to be determined. It should oscillate between 38% (ultra optimistic and unrealistic version) and 70% (pessimistic version). Reasonably, we can estimate that it will exceed 50%. (figure confirmed since, see boxes 1 and 2)

The air group also affected?

Official communication remains very discreet. But one of the categories also affected would be the air group: Rafale fighter planes (Landivisiau), helicopters (Hyères), Hawkeye surveillance planes (Lann-Bihoué). Given the relative strain on the personnel of the pilots, mechanics and other support elements at the air level, it is as serious, if not more so, than the immobilization of the aircraft carrier.

The pasha would have asked for the interruption of the exercise

The question of political responsibility will soon arise. According to a sailor interviewed by France-Blue, the pasha (commander) of the ship would have proposed to interrupt the exercise as soon as the cases were known, after the stopover in Brest. Which seems quite logical to us knowing the sense of responsibility that drives sailors, especially at the highest level. The ministry refused. It will be necessary to determine who refused. Umbrellas are going to start popping up all over the place, shifting the blame to the lower level...or higher.

The question of political responsibility

What is certain is that concerning an aircraft carrier which is not only nuclear-powered, but is one of the elements of the French nuclear deterrent (carrying aircraft capable of carrying the nuclear bomb), this decision is not of the is the responsibility of the pasha alone or of a simple commander of the staff. Such a decision immediately goes back to the office of the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and that of the President of the Republic.

Did the first round of municipal elections influence?

The continuation of the Foch mission after the stopover in Brest is a real question: health, military and politics. It is true that interrupting such an exercise is a major political decision, a symbolic signal. We can reasonably think that the executive who was in a posture of “valour” vis-à-vis the coronavirus and wanted to maintain the first round of the municipal elections at all costs could not afford to cancel the displacement of Charles-de-Gaulle . A matter of principle.

Chinese-style communication

In the end, one can wonder about the validity of French military communication today. This one has rediscovered the good old reflexes of the 'Grande muette'. At a time when French President Emmanuel Macron is questioning China's lies on the Coronavirus epidemic (2), the communication of the Ministry of the Armed Forces is no better: denying any problem, then affirming 40 suspected cases, which become 50 positive then go to a figure multiplied by 13, forgetting in passing one in three sailors... That's a lot. Obviously announcing, overnight, a rate of contamination on more than half of the crew was tricky. So, by successive keys, we reveal the information one by one, hoping that another event will occur, putting reality in the background. This tactic, which is useful in the short term, is harmful in the medium term. It could significantly undermine the credibility of the armies. That's a shame...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(Update) 60% tested positive (source SSA) on nearly 1600 sailors

Questioned by the senators this Friday (April 17), the director of the health service of the armies (SSA) recognized that the situation was much more serious than expected. " Of the 2300 sailors in the naval aviation group, “all tested on their return to Toulon, 940 tested positive, 645 negative, the other test results not yet known. says General Maryline Gygax Généro. That is a rate of around 60% of contaminated out of nearly 1600 sailors (1585 exactly).

On the aircraft carrier itself, " 500 sailors showed symptoms, 20 soldiers are hospitalized, 8 are on oxygen therapy and 1 is in intensive care. The sailors who tested negative are all in the fortnight in a military compound, and are monitored twice a day by the army health service.

And to comment: The contamination of the aircraft carrier is an absolutely major event. There will undoubtedly be consequences to be drawn at the end of this crisis, whether it concerns the medical specialties of the SSA, or the equipment “ she said according to the report drawn up by the Senate. " We are and will be transparent ". Forbidden to smile...

54% on 2010 tests

Before the National Assembly, the same day (at 15 p.m.), the French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly, completes this figure with another which goes in the same direction: " as of April 17, out of 2010 tests carried out, 1081 sailors are positive for Covid-19 ". And, in total, 545 sailors show symptoms of illness ". We are therefore of course at a contamination rate of more than 50% (53,8% exactly) (2). Knowing that this figure is not definitive: there are still 300 sailors to be tested. Another interesting element of this test, one out of two sailors does not show any symptoms, but is detected positive (therefore contaminating). Which corresponds to the 'civilian' statistics of an extremely contaminating disease by healthy carriers. Download the discourse of the minister

  1. China withheld some information. Read his interview at Financial Times.
  2. According to The sailor this information had already been known since the day before at least. It indicates that 51% of the population of the carrier group landed in Toulon (2000 sailors) was contaminated with the covid-19 virus, according to a report from April 16, not released by the authorities. This while 7% of the tests were still missing out of the total.

Read also:

Updated with the two official information from the health service of the armies and the Minister Florence Parly (which confirm our first analysis), or even go beyond, as well as information from the Marin.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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