Naval Air: July 3, 2004
After much rancorous negotiation, ship builders Thales and DCN have agreed upon a compromise for building Frances new aircraft carrier. French-owned DCN would own 65 percent while multinational Thales would hold 35 percent of a jointly owned company to design and build the ship with an estimated price tag of $2.5 billion. Thales is teamed with BAE Systems to build the UKs two new carriers, which are scheduled to come into service in 2012-2015, and wanted to take the lead in the French project. DCN wanted the new carrier to be nuclear propelled, like the system they built for the carrier Charles de Gaulle. The French Ministry of Defense urged to two companies to quit bickering and develop a joint plan for a non-nuclear powered ship. Up to 40 aircraft could be embarked on the new carrier, including Rafael M and Super Etendard fighters, E-2C Hawkeye AWACS aircraft, and various utility helicopters. It is expected to displace around 50 to 55,000 tons, depending on the finalized design.
The French government had hoped to link its carrier build to the UK build and the joint companys first task is to study common requirements between the French and UK ships to keep costs down. Two 55,000 ton UK carriers are to built and designed to carry up to 42 F-35 short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) strike fighters as well as some sort of helicopter or aircraft for the AWACS role. Both countries expect industry representatives to present initial ideas on possible areas for collaboration by the end of September and a joint government study for possible co-operation should be finished by the summer of 2005. The French Defense ministry expects to award a development and production contract in 2006 to the joint company. One choice to build the hull could be Chantiers de lAtlantique, a shipyard builder of large cruise liners. Doug Mohney