The President of the Republic Announces the Choice of Nuclear Propulsion for the Future Aircraft Carrier of the French Navy
(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued Dec. 8, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
France’s future aircraft carrier, intended to replace the Charles de Gaulle from 2038, will displace about 75,000 tonnes to accommodate about 30 FCAS fighters, and will be nuclear-powered. Interestingly, building a sister ship has not been ruled out. (NG image)
PARIS --- While visiting the Framatome site in Le Creusot, the President of the Republic on Tuesday December 8 announced his decision to equip the future Army aircraft carrier with nuclear propulsion.
This choice closes the study phase of the various architectural and propulsion hypotheses of the new generation aircraft carrier. Implementation of the plans will continue until 2025, when construction work on the building will begin. After two years of sea trials, it will be fully operational in 2038.
The aircraft carrier is an essential tool for our sovereignty. A combat vessel, symbol of power and testimony to our capacity for action, it carries the voice of France in all the seas of the world.
The future aircraft carrier will be more powerful than the current aircraft carrier. Displacing around 75,000 tonnes, it will measure in the order of 300 meters long and 80 meters wide. With a speed of 27 knots, or 50 km/h, it will be able to carry electromagnetic catapults and around thirty new-generation "SCAF" fighter jets. Its crew will consist of around 2,000 sailors.
The choice of nuclear propulsion will allow the aircraft carrier to gain autonomy, since its refueling needs will be limited. It also increases its availability, insofar as technical shutdowns will only occur every 10 years compared to 7 to 8 years today. Finally, this decision makes it possible to preserve the skills of our nuclear industrial sector.
The development and construction of the aircraft carrier will support 2,100 jobs: 400 people will be in charge of the hull at Saint-Nazaire, 1,400 people will work for Naval Group and its partners, and 300 people will be employed on the nuclear propulsion. These jobs will be distributed mainly between the Pays de la Loire, Brittany and the South of France regions.
1. How much will such a project cost?
This is of primary importance. The Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération (New-Generation Aircraft Carrier, or PANG) is a project that will cost several billion euros. The figure that I can you give with precision today is that the design and development of the ship and its propulsion, which will occupy us until 2025, will cost 900 million euros, or about 117 million euros per year beginning next year. This amount covers continuing detailed design studies for both the aircraft carrier and its propulsion system.
Concretely, it is a question of designing the detailed platform, including the integration of catapults, the nuclear boilers, and to define the combat system. The development phase will be completed by the end of 2025, and we will then order the construction of the ship.
A nuclear aircraft carrier is certainly, when purchased, more expensive than a conventional aircraft carrier. But when you look at the "full" cost of an aircraft carrier throughout its lifespan, that is to say by integrating the fuel (or fuel, depending on), the cost of two modes of propulsion is quite similar.
2. What have we been doing for two years?
In October 2018 (during the previous edition of the Euronaval show), the Minister of the Armed Forces announced the launch of the initial studies for the renewal of our aircraft carrier. It is to prepare the replacement of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which should be withdrawn from service in 2038. We therefore need a new aircraft carrier that will go to sea two years earlier, i.e. in 2036, to allow time to carry out the trials so as to have an operational carrier in 2038.
Over the past two years, a lot of work has been done. The Ministry of the Armed Forces and industry have carried out many studies. It was about considering possible architectures of the ship that will replace our aircraft carrier, and then it was about deciding its large dimensions, to define the size of the aviation group, and to determine the type of propulsion.
3. What will this PANG look like?
Its main characteristics will be as follows: a displacement of about 75 000 tonnes for a length of around 300 meters, and a maximum speed of 27 knots, or nearly 50 km / h.
To launch and recover its aircraft, it will be equipped with electromagnetic catapults and new-generation arresting gear, and will embark around thirty new-generation SCAF fighters. The crew will consist of around 2,000 sailors (air group included).
4. How will it be propelled?
Regarding its propulsion, the president announced a clear choice: it will be nuclear powered. This choice is finally logical, as nuclear propulsion has a number of advantages over conventional propulsion: endurance (it is not necessary to refuel the aircraft carrier, except for aviation fuel), the excellent availability of a nuclear-powered ship and, finally – and this is a major consideration - the sustainability of the nuclear sector, both in the Navy and in our industry.
This project will contribute to French excellence in this area, in a context where we need to maintain our know-how because our deterrence needs it. The development of Barracuda is behind us, the third-generation SSBN (SNLE 3G) is coming soon and, until the third-generation SSN is developed, the aircraft carrier’s propulsion will sustain the nuclear sector.
The aircraft carrier will be equipped with two K22 nuclear reactors, derived from the K15 reactors which power the Charles de Gaulle but providing more power, as each will generate 220 MW compared to 150 MW. This is therefore an ambitious development project, which will help train a new generation of engineers, officers and nuclear technicians.
5. Will catapults make us dependent on the United States?
The United States is our allies, we are part of the same Alliance, and our current aircraft carrier often takes part in coalition operations with them.
We have been using American-supplied catapults for sixty years, since the carriers Foch and Clemenceau, and the loyalty of our Allies have never wavered. It allows us to avoid a specific development, which would not be economically feasible for just a few items.
The use of electromagnetic technology appears to guarantee that the future carrier will be capable of operating any type of future aircraft – from manned fighter or early warning aircraft to light drone. And it will also guarantee that our future carrier will be fully capable of operating with allied aircraft.
6. Can we consider building a second aircraft carrier?
This is not the time to answer that question. This does not mean it should not be asked, because everyone understands that two aircraft carriers guarantee that one will always be available. But we have several years to think about it, while staying capable of providing an optimized response. What matters today is the confirmation of the program to replace the Charles de Gaulle, and that the contours to be at the rendezvous of 2038.
7. Where will this PANG be based and maintained?
Our studies predict that the PANG will be based and maintained in Toulon.
8. How many airplanes will the PANG carry, and which ones?
Our studies have concluded that the aviation group should include about thirty New-Generation Fighters (NGF) which will make up the core of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), as well as of course the subsystems that will accompany them (drones, etc.) and other on-board aircraft such as the Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft and helicopters.
As the FCAS is already planned to be larger than the Rafale, this dimensioning guarantees the seamless transition from a Rafale air group to a FCAS air group which will take place during the lifetime of the future aircraft carrier.
Naval Group Welcomes the Decision of the President of the French Republic to Launch the Studies of a Future Aircraft Carrier
(Source: Naval Group; issued Dec. 8, 2020)
LE CREUSOT, France --- The President of the Republic announced the launch of studies for the replacement of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier by a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier by 2038.
Naval Group is delighted with this decision and will be involved in this historic project with its major industrial partners Chantiers de l'Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation.
Naval Group's know-how and skills will be fully mobilised to meet the French armed forces’ expectations. The President of the French Republic’s choice is a major boost for the French defence industrial and technological base and the nuclear industry as this project will mobilise several hundred jobs in France, and then several thousand each year in the implementation phase.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, Chairman and CEO of Naval Group said: "We are delighted with the announcement by the President of the French Republic, which will enable France to maintain its position in the very restricted circle of major powers holding a nuclear aircraft carrier. This project will help develop jobs in the defence industrial and technological base and ensure the continuity of our skills in the current health and economic crisis.
“Naval Group, its partners and its entire ecosystem will enable the French Navy to benefit from the best naval systems for its flagship. We are committed, as an overall architect, to respond, together with our partners Chantiers de l'Atlantique and TechnicAtome, as well as Dassault Aviation, to the expression of needs of the French general armament directorate (DGA) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Finally, this project will make it possible to develop innovation in the fields of propulsion and high added-value military systems, thus maintaining France's technological lead and its position as a key geostrategic player. This is a huge pride for Naval Group to begin the building of the biggest warship France has ever built".
Naval Group has been contributing for 60 years to the design, construction and maintenance in operational condition of the French aircraft carriers.
As the European leader in naval defence, Naval Group has for many decades ensured the technological superiority of the vessels of the French Navy and its international customers. Their operational excellence has been regularly demonstrated.
Among its many accomplishments, Naval Group has contributed to the design, construction and maintenance in operational condition of the three aircraft carriers of the French Navy: the Clémenceau, the Foch and the Charles de Gaulle. These ships have contributed to France's influence in many conflict areas around the world. Naval Group is one of a very small number of industrial companies capable of building aircraft carriers.
More specifically, Naval Group has also built and integrated, in partnership with the CEA and TechnicAtome, the two nuclear boilers on-board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the first French aircraft carrier equipped with nuclear propulsion. This nuclear-powered vessel has proven her reliability and safety. Nuclear propulsion gives this ship a considerable autonomy at sea and a great flexibility of use.
Having entered active service in 2001, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will be in service until approximately 2038.
Naval Group's exceptional skills, unique in Europe, will be fully mobilized
Naval Group, as a system integrator and prime contractor for the French Navy's submarines and surface vessels, has developed advanced and rare skills. Among its expertise, Naval Group has skills in three key areas in particular: the activities of architect and overall prime contractor, of systems integrator of complex naval weapon systems, and concerning nuclear propulsion, the manufacture and assembly of reactors, and the maintenance in operational condition of nuclear boilers.
Naval Group also has unique expertise in Europe in the integration and implementation of an aircraft carrier equipped with catapults and landing brakes as well as her air group. Integrating more than 200,000 pieces of equipment in 2,500 premises, producing more than 10,000 drawings, managing more than 3,000 contracts, and assembling 1,200 km of cables and 300 km of piping require a cutting-edge expertise.
This expertise also covers the integration of the combat and navigation systems. Fully interconnected with allied units, the combat system enables to prepare, coordinate and lead the aircraft carrier’s actions and those of the naval aviation group in real time. The combat system also ensures the ship self-defence and the security of internal as well as external communications.
In addition, Naval Group masters the implementation of fighter aviation on aircraft carriers with catapults and arresting strands. The aircraft is the central element of the aircraft carrier, whose main function is that of a mobile air base capable of operating on all the seas of the globe.
In addition, Naval Group has infrastructures dedicated to these areas of expertise. For nuclear propulsion, for example, there is a test platform for turbo-alternator modules at the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret. The company also has integration platforms for combat systems and control systems, and a unique tool for simulating flows on the flight deck of aeronautical munitions combined with virtual reality visualization.
The project for the future aircraft carrier guarantees the durability of skills and jobs for the entire French defence industrial and technological base.
The development and construction of the new generation aircraft carrier represents an investment of nearly twenty years, from 2021 to 2038. After a sketch phase, Naval Group and its industrial partners will now be in charge of carrying out a two-year preliminary design study, which will be followed by detailed design studies that will finally precede the development and construction of the aircraft carrier, a product of rare complexity.
The nuclear component of the propulsion, the implementation of on-board aviation and the operation of the new-generation aircraft carrier will lead Naval Group to reinforce key skills of engineers, technicians and workers at all Naval Group sites: Lorient, Nantes-Indret, Toulon, Angoulême-Ruelle and Brest, as well as those of its major partners Chantiers de l’Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation.
Naval Group is the European leader in naval defence. Naval Group uses its extraordinary know-how, unique industrial resources and capacity to arrange innovative strategic partnerships to meet its customers’ requirements. As a system-integrator and prime contractor, the group designs, produces and supports submarines and surface ships. It also supplies services to shipyards and naval bases. The group reports revenues of 3.7 billion euros and has a workforce of 15,168 (data for 2019).