Friday, December 1, 2023

Why is finding the name of the future French nuclear aircraft carrier so difficult?

In recent days, a subject seems to have focused the attention of a large part of the French defense sphere. Indeed, now that the construction of the future new generation nuclear aircraft carrier intended to replace the Charles de Gaulle from 2038 is assured, it is appropriate to name the future flagship of the French Navy. And obviously, the subject is complex, since the Minister of the Armed Forces has very officially, and publicly, mandated the historical service of the Armed Forces to make proposals in this direction, proposals which must be "innovative", according to Sebastien Lecornu .

It is true that the choice of baptismal names for frigates or submarines is most often entrusted to the French Navy to take over the flag of emblematic ships, or to pay homage to glorious sailors, the surname of the French aircraft carrier carries a much more political symbolism, both in France and internationally.

Thus, if no one outside the naval defense sphere knows the names of the ships of the National Navy, in France or abroad, the Charles de Gaulle is much more widely known and recognized, as a French flagship. but also as a building with significant operational potential, and the name it bears, also with a significant international footprint, is one of the key elements.

Nuclear aircraft carriers are the most iconic and powerful military ships today
Aircraft carriers are today the most emblematic ships of the naval forces.

In fact, the specifications for naming the future nuclear aircraft carrier are far from obvious. First of all, the name chosen must be perfectly consensual, among French public opinion obviously, but also internationally, since it cannot refer to historical events perceived negatively by our allies. It is therefore impossible to name the ship the Napoleon Bonaparte, the most internationally recognized Frenchman, but whose greatest historical achievement was to attempt to invade Europe.

The same goes for most images of French royalty, which are also very differently perceived depending on whether you are French or European. According to this principle, it would also be inappropriate to name the ship after a city or a region, which would undoubtedly cause tensions and jealousies from other regions.

Secondly, the name of baptisms must have a real resonance in public opinion, beyond the defense sphere or the National Navy. There is therefore no point in turning to the great French admirals, such as Tourville or Jean de Vienne, whose fame does not extend beyond the circle of military historians. Nominated adjectives, such as the Triomphant or the Redoutable, are also most often references to ships of the old regime, without such names arousing real popular support or recognition, while beyond borders, they can lead to confusion regarding the translation applied.

jeanne darc porte helicopters e1685359359805 Aircraft carrier | Defense News | Defense institutional communication
The helicopter cruiser Jeanne d'Arc has trained French naval officers for more than 3 decades

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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