Naval Air: December 4, 2003

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France is considering quietly retiring their new nuclear powered aircraft carrier and joining with Britain to buy a new carrier of British design. Actually, the French had planned to built a second nuclear powered carrier, but they are having so many problems with the first one that they are reluctant to build a second of the same design. Britain is building two 50,000 ton conventionally powered carriers, at a cost of $2.5 billion each. France would order a third of this class, and bring down the cost of all three a bit. The new French nuclear carrier "Charles de Gaulle" has suffered from a seemingly endless string of problems. The 40,000 ton ship has cost over four billion dollars so far and is slower than the diesel powered carrier it replaced. Flaws in the "de Gaulle" have led to the use of propellers from it predecessor, the "Foch," because the ones built for "de Gaulle" never worked right. Worse, the nuclear reactor installation was done poorly, exposing the engine crew to five times the allowable annual dose of radiation. There were also problems with the design of the deck, making it impossible to operate the E-2 radar aircraft that are essential to defending the ship and controlling offensive operations. Many other key components of the ship did not work correctly, and the carrier has been under constant repair and modification. The "de Gaulle" took eleven years to build (1988-99) and was not ready for service until late 2000. It's been downhill ever since. So the plan is to buy into the new British carrier building program and keep the "de Gaulle" in port and out of trouble as much as possible. The British have a lot more experience building carriers, and if  there are any problems with the British designed ship, one can blame the British.

 


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