PARIS --- France will develop and build a new aircraft carrier to enter service in 2038 to replace the Charles de Gaulle now in service, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly announced Monday.
In a video speech marking the opening of the Euronaval online exhibition, Parly said “Regarding the new generation aircraft carrier, I can confirm that this program will be launched to give a successor to the Charles de Gaulle in 2038,” adding that “it will offer an operational framework that will be perfectly adapted, from the outset, to our future combat aircraft, known under the name of SCAF.”
Parly did not provide any additional details, notably on whether the new carrier will be conventionally or nuclear-powered, but proceeded to recap the major modernization of the French Navy that her government is completing. “Never in the past 30 years has the Navy seen such a renewal of its assets,” she noted.
Observing that the current 2019-2023 military program law has earmarked 110 billion euros for equipment procurement, a significant part of which benefits the Navy, Parly also announced that, “in the coming months, I will launch construction work on third-generation ballistic missile submarines.”
Again, she provided no details, but in itself the announcement is very significant as it confirms the long-term modernization of France’s fleet of four Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines, presently armed with the M51 ballistic missile which will also have to be replaced to equip the next-generation of “boomers.”
Surface combatant programs
As the FREMM multi-mission frigate program winds down, with the final two air-defense variants Alsace and Lorraine due to be delivered in 2021 and 2022 respectively, construction will shift to the Defense and Intervention Frigates (FDI).
These frigates “are stealthy, enduring and versatile: they are the symbol of a naval industry at the forefront of modern technology,” Parly said, adding that “In 10 years, the Navy will have received eight new first-rank frigates – a remarkable” achievement.
To follow the FREMM class, France plans to build five new FDI frigates, which are among the most heavily armed and technologically advanced designs now available. The lead ship, “Admiral Ronarc’h,” is now under construction and is to be delivered in 2023, with the second to follow in 2025.
France has also launched two naval programs in cooperation with her European allies, but these fall short, in both size and cost, of the ambition voiced by several European governments for a consolidation of naval programs.
The first two fleet logistic ships being built by Italy’s Fincantieri in cooperation with France’s Naval Group, are to be delivered by 2025. For mine warfare France is developing the SLAMF program, integrating drone systems, in cooperation with Britain.
Two new classes of OPVs
To support the French Navy’s security missions, France in July launched the construction of ten offshore patrol vessels known as “patrouilleurs océaniques” and displacing 2,000 tonnes, which will be stationed in France; the first two are to be delivered by 2025.
For France’s overseas possessions, France has ordered six overseas patrol vessels (Patrouilleurs Outre Mer, or POM) that will be delivered in 2024 and 2025 and will be stationed in La Réunion, Tahiti and New Caledonia. Parly last week cut the first steel on the first of these boats, that will displace about 1,200 tonnes. The ships, Parly noted, will “protect the 10 million square kilometers of sea that make up our exclusive economic zone.”
France is also renewing its fleet of six attack submarines, with the Barracuda-class nex-generation boats replacing the Rubis submarines now in service. The lead boat, the Suffren, is completing her sea trials and is due to be delivered by the end of the year, Parly confirmed.
After having lauded naval manufacturers and the Directorate-General of Armaments which manages French defense procurement, Parly finished her speech on an optimistic note.
“My final message will be one of resilience and optimism. Together we must resist. We have unique, known and recognized skills and know-how. I am not saying that going through the economic and health crisis will be easy or without uncertainty, but we have assets and resources.”