Is a second aircraft carrier possible for the French Navy?

If there is a divisive subject both at the level of staffs and among the political class in France, it is the question of a second aircraft carrier for the French Navy. The situation is however paradoxical, since there are only two Navies on the planet with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, what's more, equipped with catapults and arresting wires making it possible to implement a vast array of devices.

As for other navies, they must make do with aircraft carriers or aircraft carriers armed with short or vertical takeoff aircraft like the F-35 and the Harrier, or capable of using a springboard like the Mig-29 or the J -15, this being to the detriment of the load of the device as well as the number of aerial rotations supported by the ship. The advantages of the CATOBAR aircraft carrier (CATapultes and Brins d'ARrêts) are such that Beijing has made colossal efforts to acquire it, while the new Fujian Type 003 aircraft carrier was launched on June 17 this year.

The replacement for Charles de Gaulle will be secured in the LPM

In 2020, the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced the launch of the program intended to design and build the replacement for the nuclear aircraft carrier (PAN) Charles de Gaulle, in service since 2001, and which will have to leave the line in 2038. The new ship will also be nuclear powered, like its predecessor, but much more imposing, with an estimated tonnage of 70.000 to 80.000 tonnes, almost twice the 45.000 tonnes of the Charles de Gaulle, in order to implement the successor of Rafale M, also more imposing than the device it will replace.

In addition, the ship will have catapults, not steam-powered like the Charles de Gaulle and the aircraft carriers Foch and Clemenceau before it, but electromagnetic, which will be acquired in the United States and of the same model as those equipping the new super US Navy Ford-class nuclear aircraft carriers.

However, like its predecessor, the new French aircraft carrier will suffer from a major weakness, that of being the only aircraft carrier in service within the French Navy, not making it possible to ensure the essential inseparable naval air permanence. its effectiveness, as well as its dissuasive nature.

PAn Charles de Gaulle
The Charles de Gaulle is today the only nuclear-powered CATOBAR aircraft carrier in service not belonging to the US Navy

However, while the construction of the replacement for the Charles de Gaulle had already generated numerous protests, it is true that it emanated largely from a single source, the budgetary effort linked to the construction of a second building and its naval air group. is currently considered so high that it is not considered, and postponed to a later decision, in a repeat of what has been done over the last 20 years regarding a possible sister ship of the Charles de Gaulle.

While the security situation has evolved considerably in recent months, in Europe, as in the Pacific and the Middle East, anda new Military Programming Law will be urgently designed this fall to respond to these geopolitical developments, is it relevant, or simply possible, to proceed with the construction of a second aircraft carrier intended to operate alongside the replacement for the Charles de Gaulle, while the entire Armed Forces suffers from numerous capacity weaknesses to deal with any emergency?

Strengths, weaknesses and constraints of a second aircraft carrier for the French Navy

If the aircraft carrier is popular in most of the world's major armed forces, it has no shortage of detractors in France. According to the arguments frequently put forward, this ship would be expensive and vulnerable, and would consume credits which would be much more efficiently spent on increasing other capabilities, such as the fighter fleet, the submarine fleet or the surface fleet.

A complex and difficult choice of means to achieve

In addition, the pair formed by the Rafale and the new A330 MRTT in-flight refueling aircraft would allow the Air Force to carry out long-distance operations, without the need to deploy an aircraft carrier, the operational benefit of which would therefore be, according to its detractors , questionable if not superfluous.

The budgetary aspect is indisputable, since for the price of a second nuclear aircraft carrier and the ships and aircraft necessary for its implementation, the Air and Space Force could acquire 80 Rafale additional, i.e. five fighter squadrons, as well as a squadron of additional A330 MRTTs, effectively doubling its theoretical size. And if the French Navy were to give up its first aircraft carrier, it could acquire six frigates and three additional nuclear attack submarines.

Rafale Scalp Air Force
Armed with SCALP cruise missiles, the Rafale of the Air Force carried out a raid over more than 3000 km in April 2018 to destroy Syrian chemical installations

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  1. We have to “cover” all the Oceans with our possessions, the question does not even arise! An additional PAN is absolutely necessary and helicopter carriers to occupy the ground and assert our presence overseas. It wouldn’t be any worse for our “reindustrialization” promised by the clown at the Elysée!


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