The sole prime contractor for the entire mid-life refit of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, Naval Group has returned the vessel to the French Navy. The vessel will now start ramping up its systems before returning to its operational cycle.Designed and built by Naval Group and entering service in 2001, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, further to its modernisation, has now entered the technological era of the 21st century. This mid-life refit included unprecedented renovations and a density of work that gave the project a level of complexity unseen until now. This veritable industrial challenge required exceptional organisation to achieve the real-time coordination of the entire project, Naval Group’s core business.
The in-depth renovation of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was performed to ensure the vessel’s operational performance levels for the next 25 years and ensure that it maintains its technological advance at the service of France’s interests. This refit focused on three major challenges. Firstly, the modernisation of the combat system in particular with the modernisation of the tactical system, the brain that manages the sensors and weapons, the installation of new digital networks, the complete replacement of the Control Room, the renovation of the telecommunications systems, the replacement of the air search and navigation radars.
Secondly, the modernisation of the aviation installations covered all the necessary modifications to switch to an “all-Rafale” setup: modification and renovation of the aviation spaces, renovation or replacement of deck-landing systems… The third challenge of this refit relates to the renovation of the platform i.e., amongst other things, the modernisation of the vessel control PLCs, the renovation of the automatic stabilisation and steering control system, the replacement of two units of the vessel’s cooling system, but also the refit of the control simulator and of one galley.
In addition to this renovation, the mid-life refit of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft also comprised through-life support work. This aspect of the project related essentially to the maintenance of major installations: the inspection of the two nuclear reactors and the replacement of their fuel elements, the maintenance of the electrical power plant, the maintenance of the propulsion system, the inspection of the catapults, shaft lines and stabilizing fins, and the painting of the underwater hull and topsides.
18 months of work (as a comparison: 4 years for a US aircraft carrier)
Over 200,000 tasks performed of which 50% by the crew
Over 4 million hours of work
On average, 2100 persons working each day: 1100 crew members, 1000 employees of Naval Group and its 160 subcontractors
2000 tests performed
5 years of preparation
A budget of €1.3 billion (as a comparison: €4.7 billion for a US aircraft carrier)