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The aircraft carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE will be replaced by a new nuclear-powered vessel by 2038. French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement this week is a major boost for the French defence industrial and technological base as this project will mobilise several hundred jobs in France, followed by several thousand each year in the implementation phase.

Pierre Eric Pommellet, Chairman and CEO of Naval Group said: “We are delighted with the announcement by the President of the French Republic, which will enable France to maintain its position in the very restricted circle of major powers holding a nuclear aircraft carrier. This project will help develop jobs in the defence industrial and technological base and ensure the continuity of our skills in the current health and economic crisis.”

Naval Group has contributed to the design, construction and maintenance in operational condition of the three previous aircraft carriers operated by the French Navy. The company has also built and integrated, in partnership with the CEA and TechnicAtome, the two nuclear boilers on-board the CHARLES DE GAULLE, which having entered active service in 2001, will serve until approximately 2038.

Systems Integration

Naval Group, as a system integrator and prime contractor for the French Navy’s submarines and surface vessels, has developed advanced and rare skills. Among its expertise, Naval Group has skills in key areas:

  • the activities of architect and overall prime contractor
  • systems integrator of complex naval weapon systems
  • the manufacture and assembly of reactors
  • the maintenance in operational condition of nuclear boilers.

Naval Group also has unique expertise in Europe in the integration and implementation of an aircraft carrier equipped with catapults and landing brakes as well as her air group. Integrating more than 200,000 pieces of equipment in 2,500 premises, producing more than 10,000 drawings, managing more than 3,000 contracts, and assembling 1,200 km of cables and 300 km of piping require cutting-edge expertise. This expertise also covers the integration of the combat and navigation systems. Fully interconnected with allies, the combat system enables the coordination of the aircraft carrier’s actions, and those of the naval aviation group, in real time. The combat system also ensures the ship self-defence and the security of internal as well as external communications. In addition, Naval Group masters the implementation of fighter aviation on aircraft carriers with catapults and arresting strands.

Aircraft Carrier Experience

Naval Group also has infrastructure dedicated to these areas of expertise. For nuclear propulsion, there is a test platform for turbo-alternator modules at the Naval Group site in Nantes-Indret. The company also has integration platforms for combat systems and control systems in addition to a unique tool for simulating flows on the flight deck of aeronautical munitions combined with virtual reality visualisation.

Following a sketch phase, Naval Group and its industrial partners will now be in charge of carrying out a two-year preliminary design study, which will be followed by detailed design studies that will finally precede the development and construction of the ship.

Jack Richardson