The French Navy has announced that it will replace the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle when it reaches the end of its service life in the 2030s. At the Euronaval Exhibition in Paris, the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, stated that the government has ordered an 18-month study to determine the architecture of one or more new carriers that will take the place of the French flagship.
The Charles de Gaulle is France's only strike carrier. It has recently completed sea trials after a major 18-month refit and is scheduled to return to service in 2019. It was originally launched on May 7, 1994, but sea trials soon revealed problems with the two 150 MW K15 pressurized water reactors and one of its propellers broke, resulting in an embarrassing tow back to port.
However, despite ongoing reactor and other problems, the de Gaulle entered active service in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attack in New York. It supported Coalition operations in Afghanistan from the Indian Ocean. It then went on to provide combat air patrols with the US Navy during the 2002 India-Pakistan Crisis, participated in various NATO operations, helped enforced the no-fly zone over Libya, and was in action against ISIS in 2015.
Though the de Gaulle just finished its midlife refit in September, the French government have already made the decision to replace it because it will take well over a decade to complete design and construction. At the moment, Parly stresses that nothing has been decided aside from the need to find a replacement. How many ships will be needed and whether they will have nuclear propulsion or opt for the conventional plant used by the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth Class has yet to be determined.
"The first step, which is being launched today, is the study phase, in which we get together to determine what we want and how we want it for our future aircraft carriers," says Parly.
The Euronaval exhibition runs from October 23 to 26.
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