Possible appearance of the future aircraft carrier PANG. Graphics Navalnews.com
Since 2018, the French military and shipbuilders have been considering the design and construction of a promising aircraft carrier. In the distant future, he will have to replace the only available ship of this class, Charles de Gaulle. Until now, work in this direction was at its earliest stages, but in the near future the French leadership can start the design process.
From idea to order
The topic of building an aircraft carrier to supplement, and then to replace the Charles de Gaulle with varying activity was discussed for several years, but the matter did not go further. The situation changed in 2018. At the Euronaval 2018 exhibition, the Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parley announced the launch of research work on the topic of “next-generation aircraft carrier” (Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération or PANG).
Over the past two years, the specialized organizations of France have carried out a number of major studies and have formulated general recommendations for a promising aircraft carrier. The French media report the existence of several options for the appearance of such a ship with one or another feature. The customer in the person of the military and political leadership will have to choose the most successful and start its detailed study.
Not so long ago, in May, F. Parley said that work on the current part of the PANG program was completed, and the country's leadership was preparing to make the necessary decisions on time. However, a specific date for the announcement of the current results of research was not called. At the same time, some technical details became known, as well as the specifics of the disputes surrounding key project components, such as a power plant.
The layout of the promising SCAF fighter. Its decked version can find application on PANG. Wikimedia Commons Photos
Apparently, several preliminary projects have already been submitted to the country's leadership, right up to President Emmanuel Macron. It is expected that in the near future the French leadership will choose the best project and approve its development. Some foreign media believe that the corresponding decree and contract for further work will appear on a holiday on July 14.
Appearance of the future
In May, the Minister of Armed Forces mentioned that some of the features of the future PANG look were already determined, but there was no consensus on the power plant and some other issues. However, technical details were not given again.
On July 8, a group of French senators published an interesting report on the progress and prospects of the PANG program. This document describes current challenges and problems, how to solve them - as well as optimal options for characteristics, architectures, etc. Not only the aircraft carrier itself is considered, but also its aviation group, incl. in terms of perspectives in the distant future.
According to the report, an aircraft carrier with a displacement of approx. 70 thousand tons and a length of 280-300 m. For comparison, the current Charles de Gaulle has a length of approx. 260 m and displacement “total” 43 thousand tons Such dimensions are related to the characteristics of the proposed aviation group. The Charles de Gaulle was built for the Dassault Rafale-M fighters, and the new PANG proposes the use of next-generation aircraft, which are supposed to be larger and heavier.
Consider the optimal scheme CATOBAR with a flat flight deck, incl. with corner, catapults in take-off positions and a cable aerofinisher. It is proposed to consider the possibility of purchasing the American electromagnetic catapult EMALS. This will ensure the compatibility of carrier-based aircraft within NATO, and will also allow France not to waste time and effort on its own system of this kind. In addition, due to the high flexibility of application, EMALS will allow launching aircraft with different masses.
Charles de Gaulle is the only French Navy aircraft carrier. Wikimedia Commons Photos
Disputes over the main power plant are ongoing. A very profitable option is a nuclear reactor capable of meeting all the needs of the ship and giving a certain margin of performance. It is also important that the development of nuclear power plants will support the French nuclear industry. However, such a power plant is more complicated and more expensive than other options. In addition, a ship with a nuclear power plant once every 10 years will have to be withdrawn from combat duty for 18 months for secondary repairs and reloading of the reactor.
There is no consensus on the power plant yet. The military is interested in getting a nuclear carrier with all its advantages, but lawmakers and the country's leadership may not agree with them. What will be the new ship - it will become clear later.
Due to the automation of a number of processes, the possibility of reducing the crew by 10% in comparison with Charles de Gaulle was found. This means that no more than 1080 sailors and officers will serve at PANG. Requirements are made for improving comfort in residential and domestic compartments in comparison with the current ship. To reduce the burden on sailors while maintaining combat effectiveness, the formation of two interchangeable crews is possible.
PANG will become the core of the aircraft carrier group, which makes special demands on the electronic complex on board. Approximate requirements for radars and other systems are already known, but have not yet decided on the exact types of products. In general, there will be no fundamental differences from Charles de Gaulle - but only modern and newly developed systems will go into business.
The main means of observation and detection should be a radar all-round surveillance with AFAR. Other locators are also required, including to control the fire of specific combat systems. The ship needs communications and control equipment that meet the current requirements of the Navy. It should successfully work within the framework of a single information management field as its key element.
The basis of French carrier-based aviation is the Dassault Rafale-M fighter-bomber. Wikimedia Commons Photos
On "Charles de Gaulle" for self-defense there are anti-aircraft guns and air defense systems. PANG can get the PAAMS medium-range anti-aircraft complex and small-caliber artillery. In the future, it is possible to use the promising PILUM rail gun, which is still at the experimental stage.
Given the prospects for the development of French combat aircraft, the basis of the deck group is considered a promising sixth generation fighter SCAF. The aircraft carrier will be able to carry up to 32 of these fighters with placement on the flight deck or in the below-deck hangar. Also, the need to use 2-3 aircraft AWACS E-2D Advanced Hawkeye or its later modifications is considered.
PANG studies are seriously considering the creation and use of medium or heavy unmanned aerial vehicles for various purposes. In particular, the appearance of a carrier-based heavy reconnaissance and strike UAV, capable of taking on some of the tasks of manned aircraft, is possible. Take-off and landing of such equipment will be carried out using a catapult and a finisher. The required number of UAVs has not yet been determined.
The stage of research on the topic of PANG lasted about two years, and in the near future they can start the design. Shipbuilding will receive the final version of the terms of reference and will begin to develop a project for subsequent construction. At the same time, France is not going to rush, since the only aircraft carrier is still coping with the load.
Aircraft AWACS E-2D Advanced Hawkeye - such machines are needed by both current and promising aircraft carriers. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
PANG construction will begin in the second half of the twenties. Launching and completion are in the mid-thirties. The finished ship will enter the combat structure of the Navy approximately in 2038. By this time 37 years will have passed since the acceptance of the Charles de Gaulle. A shift of the deadlines to the right is possible, but the French leadership hopes to get a new aircraft carrier no later than the fortieth anniversary of the existing one.
At the level of general ideas, the possibility of accelerating construction was considered so that PANG could begin service in 2030 or a little later. However, this acceleration imposes a lot of limitations of a technical, economic and other nature. As a result, they considered that a gain in time does not justify other losses.
The discussion of serial construction issues continues. The French Navy is determined to get one PANG, but in the absence of difficulties they will not abandon the second. However, such a development of events seems unlikely. The high cost of construction imposes serious restrictions. Actually the fleet you have to choose between one nuclear carrier or two conventional ones.
Ship to be
In general, the situation with the Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération program currently looks quite interesting. France decided on the need to build a second aircraft carrier in the long term to replace the only available ship. The remaining issues have not yet been resolved. The exact appearance of the future PANG and its air group, technical and operational features, as well as the final cost of construction remains uncertain.
However, the situation may change in the very near future. In just a few days, E. Macron can order the launch of a new stage of the project. And according to the results of these works, the final appearance, exact terms and cost of construction will be known. However, even after this, the new aircraft carrier will remain a thing of the distant future - its service will begin only after two dozen years.