Here’s What You Need To Remember: The final consideration France may make is whether to go ahead with two of the nuclear-powered carriers, opt for two carriers with conventional propulsion or perhaps stick with one carrier (either nuclear or conventionally powered) and see how it plays out. Given the past problems with Charles de Gaulle perhaps a single carrier may be best – to ensure it doesn’t double any potential troubles that could come up!

The French Navy hasn’t had a lot of “good luck” with its current and only aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was taken out of service when a small portion of its crew was infected with the novel coronavirus this past April. Yet, even before that, the carrier had what could only be described as a “troubled” track record.

Construction of the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle began in 1989 and it was meant to be the first of two carriers – to replace the aging Foch and Clemenceau – but the project was delayed by the economic recession of the early 1990s and work was suspended a total of four times over the next decade. When the ship was finally commissioned in May 2001, it was five years behind schedule. However, the carrier remained the only one in the world outside of the U.S. Navy to use catapults to launch aircraft.

Due to the problems with the Charles de Gaulle the French Navy opted to go with a different design and began to work with Great Britain’s Royal Navy on what would become the Queen Elizabeth­-class – however, due to budget concerns the project, known as the PA2, was canceled in 2013.

Going for Another Try

Now details have emerged on what could be expected from the long-awaited and anticipated “second” French aircraft carrier, which could be increasingly necessary as the Charles de Gaulle is only likely to remain in service until the 2030s or early 2040s at the latest. The program, known as PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation or new generation aircraft carrier) is expected to be given the green light this month.

According to reports from Naval News, the new carrier could be 70,000 tons – far larger than Charles de Gaulle but still smaller than U.S. Navy carriers – and will likely also be nuclear-powered. That will provide greater endurance and could allow it to use more advanced weapons, but it will also require an extensive 18-month long overhaul every 10 years to refuel the nuclear core.

It will likely utilize an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) that is similar to the one in use on the U.S. Navy’s USS Gerald R. Ford. Due to the smaller size of the warship, the PANG would likely operate three EMALS compared to the four on the U.S. carrier. PANG’s air wing could consist of 32 NGF fighters – France’s next-generation fighter jet – and perhaps two or three E-2D Hawkeyes.

Where the PANG could take a cue from the Royal Navy is in automation, which could reduce the crew size down to just about 1,080 sailors – far less than the crew size of U.S. Navy’s carriers. 

The final consideration France may make is whether to go ahead with two of the nuclear-powered carriers, opt for two carriers with conventional propulsion or perhaps stick with one carrier (either nuclear or conventionally powered) and see how it plays out. Given the past problems with Charles de Gaulle perhaps a single carrier may be best – to ensure it doesn’t double any potential troubles that could come up!

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This first appeared earlier in the year.

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