70k ton !! IN will take cues also from this and will want Vishal at 60-70k tons. I guess future stealth jets will grow in size so carriers will have to grow too.Future aircraft carrier: manufacturers finalize their copy
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Posted on 01/14/2020 by Vincent Groizeleau
Lasting 18 months, the series of studies launched in 2018 by the Ministry of the Armed Forces on the succession of Charles de Gaulle is coming to an end. Industrialists are in the process of finalizing their copy around the two main options that will be proposed: a conventional propulsion vessel or, as is the case for the current Navy aircraft carrier, nuclear propulsion. The copies must normally be returned very soon and, if certain aspects (particularly financial) are acceptable, they will be analyzed in February during a Ministerial Investment Committee. From there, when the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly validates the proposals, they will then be transmitted to the Elysée Palace so that Emmanuel Macron can take a decision during the year, in particular as to the type of propulsion retained and possibly the number of aircraft carriers to be built. Two new units would indeed make it possible to recover permanent operational availability of this leading diplomatic and military tool, which France has lost since the withdrawal from service of the Clémenceau / Foch tandem, the abandonment of the construction of the Charles de Gaulle sistership and the failure of an alternative solution (PA2).
As a reminder, two major studies were initiated at the end of 2018 as part of the PANG project (new generation aircraft carriers): a technical-operational study, based on military needs, involving Naval Group, Thales, MBDA and Dassault on the industrial side. Aviation. And a design study, entrusted to Naval Group, Chantiers de l'Atlantique and TechnicAtome.
During these studies, different concepts were imagined, some very original. But it is logically more conventional solutions that emerge, however integrating the various technological developments and innovations in progress or planned in the coming years. As you might expect, the models on offer are considerably larger than the Charles de Gaulle, a 261-meter-long building for 42,500 tonnes of laden travel. The PANG will be a platform of around 280 meters and 70,000 tpc. A difference which is mechanically justified by the fact that the future on-board combat aircraft (called to be developed within the framework of the SCAF program) will be of the 30-ton class, against a little more than 20 tons for the current Rafale Marine. It will also be necessary to provide much more space for new armaments and drone packs than the aircraft will implement, which will entail a new approach in terms of logistics flows and freight elevators between the flight deck and the holds in ammunition. A problem that may seem quite anecdotal but which seems to be giving the Americans a hard time on the new USS Gerald R. Ford, a juggernaut of 333 meters and 100,000 tpc.
One of the designs studied by manufacturers for the conventional propulsion version of the PANG
The larger size of the PANG compared to the CDG also results from the fact that, unlike its predecessor, the future French aircraft carrier will not be limited by the reduced size of the Brest construction basins. It will indeed be carried out in the enormous holds of Saint-Nazaire, blowing up this strong constraint of size which obliged at the time of Charles de Gaulle to opt for a very compact building and to make compromises. The first of them, having regard to the too short length of the building, was the choice not to be able to simultaneously carry out decking and catapulting operations, the catapult before overflowing on the oblique track. This resulted in the decision to place the island very forward in order to favor a large parking space on the back to be able to put in the air massive decks.
A compromise which it is now possible to dispense with thanks to the upper gauge of the PANG, although the latter is equipped with two longer catapults (90 meters instead of 75). From there, it also becomes possible, as on the new American aircraft carriers of the Ford class, to deport the island to the rear so as not only to be able to catapult a large number of aircraft in a short time but also to recover more easily a massive decking with larger parking areas at the front.
In terms of catapults, the trend is to adopt the new American electromagnetic technology (EMALS) integrated in the Ford. The exercise of studying the creation of a French catapult industry has been carried out in recent months but, whether it is the current steam system or a fortiori of EMALS, such an assumption proves to be too costly and technologically risky for an activity limited to the production of only a few pieces of equipment. Compared to steam, electromagnetics also has the enormous advantage of offering a more progressive thrust, and therefore less restrictive on the structure of catapulted devices. This would significantly limit the differences between the conventional version and the on-board variant of the future SCAF.
In the end, the size envisaged for the PANG or PANG is close to what had been imagined in the previous PA2 aircraft carrier project which focused on adapting to the French needs of the design of the British Queen Elizabeth (284 meters, 65,000 tpc) . The only constraint today in terms of size is the size of the Vauban basins, in Toulon, where the future aircraft carrier (s) will go into dry dock during their technical stops. Work to rehabilitate these forms of Toulon refit is also being considered and is one of the aspects linked to the environment of PANG.
In terms of self-defense, several options are logically on the table: like the British, a weakly armed platform whose protection is above all ensured by escort frigates, a variant with, like the Charles de Gaulle, solid self-defense capacities and a third, more muscular solution, making PANG a real air defense unit. These choices may however wait a little longer.
For now, the most urgent decision will be that of propulsion, which is the most "dimensioning" element of the project. The classic option would be less expensive but it is operationally less attractive according to the military and raises the question of the availability of fossil fuels in 40 years. But, above all, this project must also be part of a global approach concerning the French nuclear industry and the maintenance of its skills. Proponents of nuclear propulsion argue that the PANG program can help revive an industry that has suffered in recent years, as evidenced by EDF's difficulties, while giving CEA new perspectives. There is also a major challenge for the sustainability and maintenance of skills within the nuclear naval sector. This is based on a very small fleet, currently of 12 on-board reactors: the two CDG boiler rooms and one for each of the four nuclear-powered missile submarines and six nuclear attack submarines, all of the family K15. However, the evolutions of this boiler room on the new SNA of the Barracuda type and the future third generation SNLE include a significant extension of the operating time between two reloads. This de facto limits the number of technical stops and therefore the workload for companies specializing in this field. If in addition it is necessary to remove the boiler rooms from aircraft carriers in the long term, the risk then increases for the sustainability of the sector, with the key likely loss of skills and therefore a potential weakness for the availability and credibility of French nuclear deterrence, which is mainly based on submarines. Arguments that will probably weigh heavily in the decision that the President of the Republic will have to take.
In the light of studies carried out in recent months, nuclear specialists seem confident in any case of the possibility of developing a new evolution of the K15 whose power would be compatible with an aircraft carrier of 70,000 tonnes equipped with two reactors.
The other inherent uncertainty in this project currently resides in the future air combat system (SCAF), and in particular its main component, the NGF (new generation fighter) which will be called upon to succeed the Rafale from 2040. SCAF is making the subject of cooperation between France and Germany, to which Spain joined last year. But at this stage, discussions remain difficult between the partners to arrive at a joint project, both operationally and industrially. However, the final size and mass of the NGF will be essential elements for the future French aircraft carrier (s).
First model of the NGF presented at the Paris Air Show ( © DASSAULT AVIATION - C. COSMAO)
Hence also the size currently envisaged and the proposal to equip the platform with two electromagnetic catapults of 90 meters, which leave enough room to implement very heavy aircraft. Knowing that the objective is, as for Charles de Gaulle, to design a new aircraft carrier capable of carrying around forty aircraft, including around thirty NGFs, two to three Hawkeye type radar planes, helicopters and UAVs. As such, there is no longer any progress in the development of an aerial combat drone (UCAV) that can be implemented from the ground or from aircraft carriers. It was foreseen in the beginnings of SCAF, on which France had first undertaken to work with the United Kingdom. But on the sidelines of Brexit, this project was stopped,
Financially, depending on the option chosen for propulsion, conventional or nuclear, the cost would be between 4 and 6 billion euros for the first building, development costs included but only for the industrial part. State costs (DGA, CEA, etc.) should be added to this. An amount that the Ministry of the Armed Forces may not be ready to accept as is, with a possible extension of the discussions. The construction of a second unit would obviously be less expensive since the design cost would have to be deducted while being able to benefit from a certain series effect.
Finally, with regard to the calendar, the objective is still for PANG to succeed Charles de Gaulle when the latter reaches its end of life, set in 2038, an imperative date which corresponds to the limit of potential of its nuclear cores after their last reload. To have a new aircraft carrier operational on this date, the Ministry of the Armed Forces wishes that sea trials begin at the latest in 2036. And table for the hour on a period of 10 years after the start of construction, which is therefore imagined around 2026, one or two years after the order. By this time, new studies should be notified to manufacturers in order to deepen the basic option that the President of the Republic must choose this year.
Note that the construction schedule will also depend on the ability of the Chantiers de l'Atlantique to complete the building faster than what the department and Naval Group are considering today, who are clearly being cautious in setting themselves at a fairly close tempo. that of Charles de Gaulle. However, Saint-Nazaire benefits from an industrial tool far more efficient than what Brest had. In addition, the Loire constructor, unlike the old Breton arsenal, will not be able to spread out according to budgetary vicissitudes the construction of the building which will have to fit into an order book already well filled with civil ships, in particular giant liners , and this for many years. In the Loire estuary, it was estimated a few months ago that the assembly of PANG, that is to say the mounting of the hull, would at most be the business of a single year. It will then take time to arm and test, obviously a longer period, but it is clear that the hull will not last forever in Saint-Nazaire. If necessary, it could therefore be completed in Brest.
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