PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron announced on December 8th that his country’s next aircraft carrier will be powered by nuclear power and should be operational by 2038 to replace the Charles de Gaulle, which entered service in 2001.
The new aircraft carrier is expected to be the largest warship France has ever built. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said in October that regardless of its propulsion system, the ship would be designed to operate the future fighter aircraft system (FCAS), and her ministry confirmed today that the ship will deploy around 30 of those aircraft larger than the Rafales. “
The ministry said the ship would be in the 75,000-tonne (82,673 tons) class, around 300 meters long, and capable of sailing at 27 knots (31 miles per hour), even larger than the Naval Group’s second aircraft carrier in the early 2000s Worked on it for years until this program was discontinued by the government for lack of money. In comparison, the Charles de Gaulle is 261 m long and weighs 42,000 tons (46,297 tons) fully loaded. The new ship will have a crew of about 2,000 men, including the air group.
At Framatome, France’s largest nuclear power plant, headquartered in Le Creusot in central France, just four minutes before the end of his 28-minute speech, Macron announced that he “has decided that the future aircraft carrier will serve our country and our navy will be how the Charles de Gaulle will be nuclear powered. “
There will be two K22 generators, each producing 220 megawatts (hence the 22), derived from the K15 (which each producing 150 MW) and currently powering the Charles de Gaulle.
The Naval Group, which is the prime contractor for these major shipbuilding projects, immediately issued a statement welcoming the decision and pledging to work with their key industry partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, Chairman and CEO of the Naval Group, said: “We are delighted with the announcement (…) that will allow France to maintain its position in the very narrow circle of great powers that own a nuclear aircraft carrier.”
In line with Macron, Pommellet emphasized the importance of such projects to “ensure the continuity of our capabilities” and to develop innovative solutions “in the areas of propulsion and military systems with high added value”, thereby maintaining France’s technological lead and its position as an important geostrategic actor. “
Now that the nuclear option has been selected to power the new French aircraft carrier, there are other important decisions to be made, particularly with regard to the catapults, which are an integral part of the project. France has no expertise in this highly specialized technology and therefore has to import the catapults from the USA as it has for the last 60 years. Those on the Charles de Gaulle are steam powered, but those on the new aircraft carrier will be electromagnetic.
The Naval Group and its partners will now begin a two-year preliminary design study, which sources suggest could use a number of ideas that were being worked on for the abandoned second aircraft carrier. This is followed by more detailed plans, the development phase of which is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. At that time, the Ministry will order the ship. The design phase by the end of 2025 is expected to cost around EUR 900 million ($ 1.09 billion), of which EUR 117 million ($ 142 million) will be spent in 2021.