France Navy to Build 75,000-Tonne Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier
France Navy to Build 75,000-Tonne Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

French Navy to Build 75,000-Tonne Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

While visiting the Framatome site in Le Creusot, the President of French on Tuesday December 8 announced his decision to equip the future French Navy 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 France 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. The new aircraft carrier 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. 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. 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.

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.