French Navy’s Future Aircraft Carrier To Be Nuclear-Powered, Says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron, on Dec. 8, announced the choice of nuclear propulsion for the future aircraft carrier of the French Navy.

The President made the announcement while traveling to the Le Creusot site of French nuclear reactor developer Framatome on Dec. 8. This choice closes the study phase of the various architectural and propulsion hypotheses of the new generation aircraft carrier.

The design phase of the carrier will continue until 2025, when construction work on the carrier will begin under the leadership of French shipbuilding major Naval Group. After two years of sea trials, the vessel is expected to be fully operational in 2038.

The choice of nuclear propulsion will allow the aircraft carrier to gain in autonomy, since its supply needs will be limited. It also increases its availability, as technical shutdowns will only occur every 10 years compared to 7 to 8 years today.

This decision will also preserve the skills of French nuclear industrial sector. The development and construction of the aircraft carrier will mobilize around 2,100 jobs. 400 people will be in charge of the hull in Saint-Nazaire, 1,400 people will work for Naval Group and its partners, and 300 people will be pledged on the nuclear part. These jobs will be distributed mainly between the Pays de la Loire, Brittany and southern France regions.

The new aircraft carrier, designated PANG (Porte-avions nouvelle génération, “new generation aircraft carrier”), will be larger and more powerful than the French Navy’s current aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. It will measure around 300 meters long and 80 meters wide with a displacement of around 75,000 tonnes, and will have a speed of 27 knots, or 50 km/h.

The carrier will be equipped with the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) developed by U.S. company General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). EMALS was first installed on the U.S. Navy’s lead Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and is planned for other ships of the class.

The vessel will carry around 30 Rafale fighter jets or the new-generation SCAF (Système de combat aérien du futur, Future Combat Air System – FCAS) combat aircraft. It will have a crew complement of around 2,000 sailors.

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