President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France will be replacing its current and only aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with a new nuclear-powered carrier in 2038. The ship’s preliminary design will be carried out over the next two years, and the developers will have to prepare the complete design of the aircraft carrier by the end of 2025.
The Charles-de-Gaulle, commissioned in 2001, remains the first and only nuclear-powered surface combat vessel built in Western Europe. The aircraft carrier has a displacement of 42,000 tonnes with a length of 262 meters, a width of 64 meters, and a height of 75 meters. The ship is equipped with two K15 pressurized water reactors (PWR). It can reach the maximum speeds of up to 27 knots (50 km/h), and the ship’s autonomy is 45 days.
The new generation aircraft carrier, or Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation (PANG), will be more powerful than the current aircraft carrier. With a mass of around 75,000 tonnes, it will measure around 300 meters long and 80 meters wide. With a speed of 27 knots (50 km/h), PANG will be able to carry electromagnetic catapults and around 30 new generations “SCAF” combat aircraft. Power will come from two 220-MW reactors generating 150 MW of electricity. Its crew will consist of around 2,000 sailors.
The yet-to-be-named carrier will be built in the shipyards at Saint-Nazaire, with Naval Group as the prime contractor. The choice of nuclear propulsion will allow the aircraft carrier to gain autonomy since its supply needs will be limited. It 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 year when Charles-de-Gaulle must withdraw from the seas and oceans.
The French military department noted that they have not yet decided how many new aircraft carriers will be purchased for the fleet. The military intends to order the construction of one ship for sure, but the contract can be expanded to two aircraft carriers. According to the military, in this case, the permanent presence of one French aircraft carrier in the oceans will be ensured.