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Subject: How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier
James Dunnigan    12/7/2003 8:07:02 PM

France is considering 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 quite reluctant about building a second like the troubled "Charles de Gaulle". Britain is building two 50,000 ton conventionally powered carriers, at a cost of $2.5 billion each. Under the proposed plan, France would order a third of this class, and bring down the cost of all three a bit. This project might not come off, because France wants a lot of the work to be done in French shipyards.

The new French nuclear carrier "Charles de Gaulle" has suffered from a seemingly endless string of problems since it was first conceived in 1986. 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 it to using the propellers from it predecessor, the "Foch," because the ones built for "de Gaulle" never worked right and the propeller manufacturer went out of business in 1999. 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, including several key electronic systems. 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. The de Gaulle is undergoing still more repairs and modifications. The government is being sued for exposing crew members to dangerous levels of radiation.

The cause of the problems can be traced to the decision to install nuclear reactors designed for French submarines, instead of spending more money and designing reactors specifically for the carrier. Construction started and stopped several times because to cuts to the defense budget and when construction did resume, there was enormous pressure on the builders to get on with it quickly, and cheaply, before the project was killed. The result was a carrier with a lot of expensive problems.

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, the French can blame the British.

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Armin    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/10/2003 3:02:11 PM
My thoughts exactly. As time goes by they seem to be moving away from conventional war. I have a feeling that they learned the danger of the whole total war Clausewitzian strategy and if they took that road they would meet complete devestation of their economy's and population centers. I believe this change occured when they both acquired nuclear weapons and the ability to completely anihlate each other. Also, in reference to your last paragraph, China is a wildcard, they are a shrewd and ancient nation, they will back whomever fits their current Realpolitik.
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bsl    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/10/2003 4:51:04 PM
"the whole total war Clausewitzian strategy" And, what is that? You made a crack about Mahan in an earlier note, as well. What is it you don't like? Is there a policy argument in here, or are you just hostile to strategic thinkers?
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gf0012-aus    Indian Aircraft Carrier(s) - Armin   12/10/2003 5:24:06 PM
At a tactical level, Pakistan has a bit more to worry about. It only has 1 significant deepwater port. That makes it a relatively attractive target in time of conflict, you don;t need to damage the city, just the facilities and Pakistans staging capability then becomes somewhat compromised. I don't think that India has an ulterior motive. It just makes good tactical sense to employ a carrier battle group as part of an integrated battle solution. They are looking at having 4 carriers in total, that means 1 each for fleet "west" and fleet "east", a CV battle group that is left on a loose "leash" and the fourth unit (under normal practice) would be refurbing, refitting etc ....
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Armin    RE:Indian Aircraft Carrier(s) - Armin   12/11/2003 11:02:29 AM
I apologize if I gave the wrong impression regarding Clausewitz or Mahan. No, I'm not one of those "pop historians" that blame the first world war on Clausewitz or those who blame European imperialism on Mahan. However, I do believe that the ideas postulated by their respective works are more often than not misunderstood and used to rationalize poor strategic planning. I actually consider myself a subscriber to Clausewitzian theory.
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bsl    RE:Indian Aircraft Carrier(s) - Armin   12/11/2003 2:30:08 PM
"I do believe that the ideas postulated by their respective works are more often than not misunderstood and used to rationalize poor strategic planning" I couldn't disagree with that.
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