Naval Air: November 1, 2000

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The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has been formally handed over to the French Navy. It will be home-ported at Toulon in the Mediterranean, and will conduct a deployment to the French West Indies in order to fully test its capabilities. The problem is that, like any carrier, the Charles de Gaulle will only be available 60% of the time. Every year, it must spend 70 days undergoing dockside maintenance. After 3.5 years, it will have to spend six months in the shipyard for a major overhaul. After 7.5 years, it will have to spend 15 months in the shipyard for an even more extensive overhaul to replace the reactor cores. This cycle will then be repeated for the life of the ship. The French Senate has issued a report calling for construction of a second carrier. While the Charles de Gaulle cost $2.7 billion, the Senate wants to build the next ship for under $2 billion by switching back to conventional power and eliminating most of the defensive weapons. The ship would then rely on escorting frigates of the new Horizon class for protection.--Stephen V Cole

 


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