With an allied American aircraft carrier not far away, Rafale and Super Etendard fighter jets catapult off this nuclear-powered symbol of French naval fortitude to attack Islamic State group positions hundreds of miles northwest in Iraq.

The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier and the flagship of the French navy, arrived in the Persian Gulf last month to help provide additional air power to the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the militants who have seized a third of Iraq and Syria.

France has been one of the most active members of the coalition, and is the only nation aside from the U.S. to bring an aircraft carrier to the fight. Its fighters had been flying missions even before the carrier arrived from elsewhere in the region. […]