France has recently announced the design phase for a new, all-modern nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to succeed the aging Charles de Gaulle as the French fleet's flagship. The vessel's design is being headed by Naval Group and was announced on December 8th, 2020 by the French President. The warship will considerably enhance French Naval capabilities by providing a go-anywhere ability for its naval air arm.
The Navy expects the vessel to feature a running length of 984 feet and displace near 75,000 tons with drive power coming from two nuclear reactors offering the needed performance and, due to their inherent design nature, essentially unlimited range. The warship will showcase launching, retrieval, and support facilities for up to thirty of the in-development "Next Generation Fighters" (NGFs). Launching of these aircraft will involve electromagentic catapults like those now being featured on American "supercarriers". Beyond this, the warship will also carry a small fleet of medium-lift navy helicopters to cover the requisite Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), at-sea replenishment, and Search & Rescue (SAR) roles.
Comparatively, the in-service Charles de Gaulle currently fields a modest collection of Dassault "Rafale" multi-role fighters as well as special-mission (E-2C "Hawkeye") fixed-wing and rotary-wing (helicopter) types. Supported helicopters include the AS565 "Panther" and AS365 "Dauphin" lines.
Released concept art of the vessel showcases a carrier form similar to de Gaulle, particularly in its use of an angled retrieval deck running from stern to port. Catapult launchers are positioned at the angled deck and over the forecastle's section of straight deck. A compact island superstructure sits to starboard and closer to the stern in the arrangement and hangars are noted ahead of its placement. Along the edges of the flight deck are positioned various defensive-minded weapon systems and sensors to protect the ship from ranged attack.
The French Navy has not made a formal decision on whether one or two aircraft carriers will be procured before the end. In a two-carrier arrangement, one unit could be undergoing required maintenance / repair while the other actively serves - thus providing the French Navy with a ready carrier force when needed.
As it stands, the project will see design work continue into the middle part of the current decade with trials hoped for in 2036 and operational service beginning sometime on or around 2038.
This article will be updated as new information warrants.
December 2020 - Announced in December, the French Defence Ministry has begun the design phase for its new aircraft carrier to succeed the aging Charles de Gaulle. Detailed studies will continue into 2025 with trials underway by 2036. Service entry is expected in 2038.
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