Macron says France’s next aircraft carrier will be nuclear-powered

President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France will be replacing the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with a nuclear-powered carrier in 2038. While on a visit to the French nuclear reactor company, Framatome, in Le Creusot, he said the decision confirms France’s desire to preserve its strategic autonomy.

The flagship of the French Navy, the Charles de Gaulle is France’s first nuclear surface vessel and its 10th aircraft carrier. It’s also the only non-American carrier to be equipped with catapults for launching fixed wing, non-STOVL aircraft. It only made its maiden voyage in 2001, but in 2018 it was decided to replace it with the Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation (PANG), or next-generation aircraft carrier.

According to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the decision to replace the current carrier with another nuclear-powered ship is because it won’t require refueling during its service life, except for aircraft fuel, and can go for 10 years between refits. The yet-to-be named carrier will be built in the shipyards at Saint-Nazaire, with Naval Group as the prime contractor, and will be based in Toulon.

Once completed, the new carrier will displace 75,000 tonnes, have a length of 980 feet (300 m) and reach a speed of 27 knots (31 mph, 50 km/h). It will carry a crew of 2,000, including air crew, 30 of the next-generation SCAF fighters, and electromagnetic catapults that will allow it to launch a wide variety of aircraft, including fighter bombers and drones. Power will come from two 220-MW reactors generating 150 MW of electricity.

The design phase for the carrier will be through 2025 when construction is set to begin, with the first sea trials slated for 2036 before the carrier replaces the Charles de Gaulle in 2038.

No costs for the project have been released, but it’s estimated to be in the neighborhood of US$6 billion.

Source: Ministry of the Armed Forces

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