Military History | How To Make War | Wars Around the World Rules of Use How to Behave on an Internet Forum
Dirty Little Secrets Discussion Board
   Return to Topic Page
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.

Quote    Reply

Show Only Poster Name and Title     Newest to Oldest
Pages: 1 2
SpecWriter    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 1:28:06 PM
Lets not forget that India is purchasing the very powerful Kiev aircraft carrier from the Soviets!
Quote    Reply

Tom Schoene    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 2:29:46 PM
I have the utmost respect for Mr. Dunnigan, but this essay is sadly quite far from the mark. The problems with de Gaulle have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, a manufacturng flaw led to a blade failure in one propellor. But until then the blades gave every impression fo worknnig properly. The temporary replacements came from Clemencau, not Foch (Foch is in commission in the Brazilian Navy as Sao Paulo, and presumably still needs her props.) The reactor shielding met the safety regulations in place at the time that contruction began. The EU standards were tightened during construction, leading to the need for modifications. But the original stadards were strict enough to make the reactors safe to operate. The E-2 flight deck issue was only a problem in the worst possible circumstances (poor weather, heavy E-2,and a bad landing). Even then, the problem was that the E-2 would have needed a tractor to push back from the edge so it could turn and clear the landing area. It was never a question of flgiht safety. With the flight deck extension fited E-2s have been flying from the ship for the last two years a least. Now, about French interest in CVF. Yes, there is one proposal (from Thales) to build a modified version of the British carrier. However, there is another proposal (from DCN) to build an improved repeat CdG. This was endorsed by the French parliamentary defense committee and is getting real consideration from the Navy and minsitry of defense. DCN claim they can deliver an improved repeat CdG for essentially the same coast as a modified CVF. No final decision has been made.
Quote    Reply

Tom Schoene    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 2:35:01 PM
(YM Russians, of course. No Soviet Union for over a decade now.) The Indians continue to flail around on Gorshkov, repeated claims by both sides that a "final" deal is imminent have proved to be false. The Indians still want the MiG-29Ks thrown into the bargain, and the Russians insist they must be bought separately, for additional hard currency. Given her very poor state of preservation and the massive amounts of modifcations needed to make her capable of flying conventional aircraft, Gorshkov is not exactly a clear prize for the Indians anyway. They might be better off putting their efforts (and money) into the indigenous ADS program.
Quote    Reply

mingrelian    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 2:49:32 PM
To keep these problems in perspective, you have to realize that prior to building the De Gaulle, France had not built an aircraft carrier in over 20 years, so many necessary skills were lost. France had to turn to the US Navy for expertise in how to design and build the launch catapults, for example. They also had to turn to many US suppliers to help with similar problems. So one way to look at the problems with the De Gaulle is that they are the price France paid for staying out of the game for so long. On the other hand, it also means next time around they will do a better job.
Quote    Reply

bsl    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 2:53:05 PM
"very powerful Kiev"? This appears to be a rather different definition of "powerful" than the one with which I'm familiar. As a first step to a real carrier force, a Kiev is understandable. Or, if all you want is an ASW force. As a power projection or sea control platform, "very powerful" doesn't quite cut the mustard. It requires you to refer to ships such as the DeGaulle as "titanic" and leaves you more or less out of adjectives to describe the American carrier force.
Quote    Reply

SpecWriter    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/8/2003 4:56:46 PM
Yeah and I'm defining powerful as in the need for India to have a aircraft carrier as a show of strength with Pakistan as a neighbor. But the Kiev out of the hands of the Soviets makes the ship much less powerful. However, I was in the Indian Ocean several years ago aboard the USS Ranger when the Kiev made an appearance. She (Kiev) was powerful enough for the Flag Admiral to make a shipboard announcement about the Kievs strengths. Its also worth noting that while I was in the Navy and in 2 1/2 Western Pacific cruises, a Flag Admiral only made an announcement to the crew once! And this was it!
Quote    Reply

Armin    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/9/2003 3:30:42 PM
Their has been some discussion about the Indian purchase of an aircraft carrier. When the Indians do recieve the Kiev, what do they plan to do with it? Do they plan to adopt some sort of Mahanian plan of naval adventurism or is it just another way to checkmate Pakistan by parking it near Karachi in the event of a crisis?
Quote    Reply

gf0012-aus    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/9/2003 4:01:56 PM
Thye're getting the Gorshkov. Thye have made it clear that they are going to use their navy to protect Indias commercial interests etc etc etc....
Quote    Reply

Armin    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/9/2003 4:49:10 PM
Thanks for the heads up. Although I'm not a student of the Indian fleet, who is there to oppose Indian maritime commercial interests? With the exception of the Chinese fleet, there really is no one to oppose the Indians. if the Indians really had to, they could roll over the Pakastani fleet.
Quote    Reply

gf0012-aus    RE:How NOT to Build an Aircraft Carrier   12/9/2003 5:10:34 PM
India has progressively become more focussed on the importance of "Indian" in the "Indian ocean". They have been bevoming more and more parochial on the issue that the Indian Ocean is their patch and not (what is perceived as) another USN pond. TMy bet is that they are stuck in the mindset that a CV provides substantial gunboat leverage, legitimises their view of being more and more the local aquatic policeman, and allow them to commence a blue water naval policy with adequate teeth. If you use "blue water navy" at its most literal (ie, a nation that has a substantial permanent fleet presence in the 3 major oceans, plus vital sea areas such as the Mediterranean, then that leaves the USN as the only permanent and legitimate player) I think that new found power will see both India and China building blue water navies to extend and demonstrate their influence and capability. The Paks look as though they are travelling down the Sov/Chinese path of building a sub capability to counter an Indian surface vessel advantage. They are also in the process of inserting sea floor sonar detectors to act as opfor tripwires. As much as the Ino-Pak problem is ugly, I can't see either party escalating to a nuclear throw level as both sides would cop the dirty side effects on their own populations. I would imagine that if china copped rad fallout they would not be terribly generous of spirit either.. :) But, if we are talking about a conventional rock throwing contest, I'd be putting my money on India. Paks islamic links, its closeness to china is a wildcard. Likewise, India has the CIS as its backup, and in a twist of irony, I think that they will gradually draw closer to the US as a Pak/radical muslim counter relationship develops.
Quote    Reply
1 2