The flagship of the naval forces of France. The first nuclear aircraft carrier built outside the United States. The most powerful and perfect warship of Europe. The true lord of the sea. All this is the true pride of the French sailors aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle" (Charles de Gaulle, R91). Invincible Poseidon, able to smash the enemy on the surface of the earth, water and airspace within a radius of thousands of kilometers!
40 combat aircraft and helicopters, guided missile weapon (Four 8 charging modules UVP for firing Aster-15 anti-aircraft missiles, two Sadral self-defense missile systems). A unique set of detection tools: 6 radars of various ranges and purposes, the VAMPIR-NG search and tracking system (IR range), a full set of radio interception and electronic warfare systems.
Combat information and control system "Zenit-8", capable of simultaneously allocating, classifying and taking on support to 2000 targets. 25 computer terminals, 50 communication channels, satellite communication systems Inmarsat and Syracuse Fleetsacom - the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle brilliantly copes with the role of the flagship of the maritime strike group.
500 tons aviation ammunition, 3400 tons of aviation kerosene. A full-fledged air group, including Rafale fighter-bombers, Super Etandar attack aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early warning and control systems, multipurpose, anti-submarine and search and rescue helicopters Aerospatial Dolphin and Cougar - up to 40 aircraft units located on the flight and hangar decks.
Two airborne aircraft lift capacity 36 tons. Two C-13F steam catapults (similar to those installed on American Nimitz) - each of them is capable of accelerating an 25-ton aircraft to a speed of 200 km / h. The rate of release of aircraft from the deck of "de Gaulle" - 2 machines per minute. The rate of reception of aircraft, in theory, allows you to safely land on the deck of an aircraft carrier to 20 machines for 12 minutes. The only limitation is that the dimensions and design of the flight deck do not allow the aircraft to take off and land at the same time.
A special pride of French engineers is the system of automatic stabilization of the ship SATRAP (Système Automatique de TRAnquilisation et de Pilotage) - 12 compensators in the form of blocks of 22 mass each, moving along special grooves on the gallery deck. The system, controlled by the central computer, compensates for various wind loads, rolling, roll when cornering, constantly keeping the ship in the correct position - this allows you to perform take-off and landing operations at sea to 6 points.
The full displacement of the gigantic ship reaches 42 000 tons. The flight deck is a quarter of a kilometer long. Crew - 1350 sailors + 600 man wing.
Fantastic design plows the sea at the speed of 27 knots (50 km / h). One recharging of reactors is enough for continuous operation during 6 years - during this time, “de Gaulle” manages to travel a distance equivalent to 12 lengths of the Earth Equator. At the same time, the real autonomy of the ship (in terms of food, aviation fuel and ammunition) does not exceed 45 days.
The aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle"! Beautiful, strong and charismatic ship. The only drawback: “de Gaulle” spent most of his 13-year-old service at ... repair docks.
France plans to write off its newest aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle. Instead of the "de Gaulle" for the French Navy will be purchased a new aircraft carrier type "Queen Elizabeth" British built. The reason for the shocking and unexpected solution is the innumerable problems and irregularities identified during the first years of operation of the French aircraft carrier ship. (The original phrase is "The Charles de Gaulle").
- site http://www.strategypage.com, news from 5 December 2003
What could be the real cause of that disgusting situation in which a completely new ship, which entered service only two years before the events described (18 May 2001), almost turned out to be scrapped?
The French are experienced shipbuilders who have repeatedly amazed the world with their wonderful creations (without any irony). The legendary submarine artillery cruiser "Surkuf" - a true miracle of 1930-s technology. Modern stealth frigates "Lafayette" and "Horizon". In its unique landing ships "Mistral" - thanks to its modular design, a huge "box" built in just a couple of years! France is well acquainted with nuclear technology - the submarine component of the French Navy is equipped with high-end technology of its own design: the Triumphan submarine, the Barracuda submarine-based ballistic missiles M45, M51. All weapons meet the highest international standards.
France is one of the recognized world leaders in the development of marine detection, control and communication systems: radar and sensor systems, CICS, thermal imagers, communications equipment. There is simply nothing to reproach the French.
French shipbuilders are no strangers to the development and construction of aircraft carrier ships: in the middle of the last century, the French Navy adopted two aircraft carriers of the Clemenceau type - one of which, Sao Paulo (formerly Foch), still serves in the Brazilian Navy. Solid ships for its time, whose displacement and size were close to the characteristics of the modern "de Gaulle".
And suddenly - an unexpected failure! How could this happen? Did the malfunctions and “childhood diseases” that any design had could have so negatively affected the fate of the new French aircraft carrier?
"Children's diseases" - this is poorly said. Problems in the operation of "de Gaulle" have become a genuine disaster for the French Navy.
Ships are dying without a fight
The fate of Charles de Gaulle began in the 1989 year, when the bottom section of the future aircraft carrier was laid at the DCNS shipyard in the city of Brest. At first, it all worked out quite successfully: just 5 years after the foundation, in May 1994, the largest warship ever built in France was solemnly launched in the presence of President François Mitterrand. In the summer of the same year, reactors were installed on the aircraft carrier. The hull saturation with high-tech equipment began. But the further the work progressed, the harder it became to keep the project within the specified schedule.
The extraordinary abundance of systems and mechanisms on board the ship led to a continuous series of changes, which delayed the already time-consuming process of building a huge aircraft carrier. For example, in accordance with the new European radiation safety standards, we had to completely rework the reactor protection and cooling system - all this is already on an almost finished ship. In 1993, an international spy scandal broke out - shipyard employees were suspected of having links with British intelligence MI6.
The construction of the aircraft carrier was regularly hampered by the French Parliament, reducing funds to finance this “exceptionally important” defense program. The day came when the work at the shipyard was completely stopped (1990 year) - this situation was repeated several times in 1991, 1993 and 1995, as a result, Charles de Gaulle finally turned into long-term construction work.
It is obvious that the basing of 40 aircraft on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is impossible in reality. Half of the aircraft remains to rust on the upper deck, where the wind, humidity and the scorching sun will quickly bring the machine into complete disrepair. On average, an aircraft carrier carries 20 combat aircraft, a pair of DRLO complexes and several turntables
According to official data, the ship was built about 10 years and cost French taxpayers 3,3 billion dollars - a little less than the cost of the American supercarrier like "Nimitz" (4,5 ... 5 billion dollars at the end of 1990's).
But the real tragicomedy began after a series of sea trials and test aircraft landing on the deck of a ship in 1999.
Constant vibrations, problems in the cooling system of the reactor, poor-quality coating of the flight deck. Unexpectedly, it turned out that the designers had made a mistake in calculating the required runway length - for the safe landing of the E-2 Eagle XHUMX Hawk aircraft, it was urgently necessary to extend the flight deck by an 4 meter.
Defect repair took a year, finally, 4 of October 2000 of the year, Charles de Gaulle, arrived on its own at the naval base of Toulon.
The approbation of the new technology began as a matter of urgency - the crew of “de Gaulle” was formed back in 1997 year and waited patiently for its ship for three years. Within a few days, the aircraft carrier left its home port and set off on a friendly visit to the shores of the United States, to the naval base of Norfolk.
Alas, at that time it was not possible to reach the shores of America - during the training maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea the blade of the right screw fell off. The aircraft carrier returned to Toulon in a three-node route. The investigation showed that the cause of the accident was (well, who would have thought!) Poor-quality parts manufacturing.
- Who was making the screws?
- Firm "Atlantic Industries".
“Submit these scoundrels here!”
“Monsieur, Atlantic Industries no longer exists ...”
The problem was that the firm Atlantic Industries disappeared without a trace, not only with the fee for a dishonestly executed contract, but, much worse, with all the documentation for the manufacture of screws. And to calculate and manufacture 19-ton ingots from copper, iron, manganese, nickel and aluminum with surfaces of double curvature is a task far from simple (and not cheap). As a temporary measure on the ship installed screws from decommissioned aircraft carrier "Clemenceau". The “de Gaulle” speed decreased to 24 ... 25 nodes, while the entire aft part was unsuitable for the life and work of the crew - the vibration and noise reached 100 dB.
The aircraft carrier spent almost the entire next year on repairs, tests and sea trials. However, at the end of May 2001, Charles de Gaulle found the strength to get out of the dock and take part in the Golden Trident naval exercises. The result of 10-day maneuvers was the scandal surrounding the Rafal M fighters - it turned out that the the fleet aircraft are not suitable for decking. The entire first batch of promising fighters was decisively rejected.
But this is only the beginning of a joke called "aircraft carrier" Charles de Gaulle ".
In December 2001 of the year, “de Gaulle” set out on his first combat expedition to the Arabian Sea. The task is aviation support of the operation “Long Freedom” in the territory of Afghanistan. During the march, the Super Etandar carrier-based attack aircraft carried out 140 combat missions over Central Asia with a duration of up to 3000 km. As for the newest “Rafale”, the chronicle of their combat use is contradictory: according to one source, the fighters struck several blows at the positions of Taliban militants. According to other data, no sorties were conducted - Rafali only participated in joint exercises with deck aircraft of the US Navy.
In any case, the role of "Charles de Gaulle" in the war was purely symbolic - all the work was performed by American aircraft, which made ten thousand combat and providing sorties over the territory of Afghanistan. Understanding his own worthlessness, “de Gaulle”, whenever possible, sought to leave the theater, and while American planes crashed the Afghan mountains, the French aircraft carrier arranged photo shoots at the ports of Singapore and Oman.
In July 2002, de Gaulle returned to the naval base of Toulon. The hike was successful, except for the fact that, due to a radiation accident on board, the crew of the aircraft carrier received fivefold radiation doses.
The French had enough impressions for a long time - for the next three years, “de Gaulle” did not make long hikes. The aircraft carrier returned to the Indian Ocean only in 2005 year. The prosperous French were clearly not pleased by the prospect of flying under dushmansky bullets and Stinger missiles - as a result, de Gaulle took part in joint exercises with the Indian Navy under the code designation Varuna, and then hurried back to the base in Toulon.
In a similar scenario, 2006 passed the year - after which hour X came. The reactor core is completely burned out and needs to be replaced. The sea elements patted the ship coolly, the hot exhaust of jet engines melted down the flight deck, a part of the auxiliary equipment failed - the aircraft carrier needed overhaul.
In September 2007 of the year, “de Gaulle” went to dry dock, from where it did not leave until the end of 2008. 15-month repair with reboot of the reactor cost France the amount of 300 million euros. The unfortunate aircraft carrier finally returned its native screws, upgraded radio electronics, laid 80 km of electrical cables, updated catapults and aerofinishers, and expanded the range of aviation ammunition.
Flashing fresh paint, the aircraft carrier arrived at the naval base of Toulon, and three months later it was safely out of order. The whole 2009 year the ship spent on repairs again.
Finally, by 2010, the main defects were eliminated, and intensive preparation of the ship for the accomplishment of new feats began. Ahead - long and dangerous campaigns to the other end of the Earth, new wars and Great Victories. October 14 2010, the squadron of warships of the French Navy, led by the flagship Charles de Gaulle, set off on a regular mission to the Indian Ocean.
The hike lasted exactly one day - a day after the launch on the aircraft carrier the entire power supply system failed.
After an emergency two-week repair, “de Gaulle” still found the strength to go along the chosen route and spent the whole 7 months in distant latitudes. Just an incredible result, given all the previous "achievements" of the aircraft carrier.
In March, 2011, the global media got around the sensational news - the French aircraft carrier is moving to the shores of Libya. The next attempt by de Gaulle to prove its necessity passed with a full house - carrier-based aviation carried out hundreds of combat missions as part of providing a “no-fly zone” over Libya. Multi-purpose fighters "Rafal" delivered a series of attacks on ground targets, using up a total of 225 high-precision AASM ammunition. After working around the 5 months in the conflict zone, Charles de Gaulle returned to Toulon in early August of the 2011 year. On the next repair.
Probably should add a few "strokes" to stories this hike. The de Gaulle air group consisted of 16 combat aircraft (10 Rafale M and 6 Super Etandard). At the same time, for attacking Libya, the NATO command attracted more 100 strike machines, among which were such “monsters” as the B-1B and F-15E “Strike Eagle”.
It becomes obvious "invaluable" contribution of the aircraft carrier in this military operation. And the cost of each of the 225 AASM bombs dropped (given the cost of maintaining a “floating airfield”) was simply astronomical — it would be cheaper to shoot a laser from an orbital combat station.
2012 didn’t bring any significant success - “Charles de Gaulle” periodically went to the Mediterranean to train deck pilots, while spending the rest of the time on endless repairs.
In the near future (tentatively 2015 year), the aircraft carrier will have another “capital” with recharging of the reactor.
Unhappiness, pursuing the aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle", have a single reason - the excessively complex design of the ship, aggravated by its cyclopean size. All this leads to irreparable loss of reliability. Thousands of mechanisms, millions of parts - every second on the ship one of the structural elements necessarily breaks. Periodically one of the critical objects fails - and then an avalanche-like increase of technical problems begins, leading to a complete loss of the ship’s combat capability.
Unlike conventional rocket and artillery combat ships, the aircraft carrier has to work with 20-ton objects (aircraft) that constantly move along the upper deck and inside the ship, periodically accelerating to 250 km / h (Rafal landing speed). From here - 260 meter deck, catapults, arresting gear, optical landing system, powerful lifts and power equipment.
Airplanes serve as a heightened source of danger: to neutralize the incandescent exhausts of jet engines, it is necessary to lay tens of kilometers of cooling system pipes under the flight deck, together with powerful pumps. Permanent work with flammable and explosive substances, which, unlike the missile cruiser or submarine, are usually dispersed literally at every turn - all this puts its imprint on the aircraft carrier design (special measures for fuel storage, fire safety, and ammunition elevators). A separate item is the power plant of colossal power with an energy extraction system to power the catapults.
UVP with Aster-15 rockets. Optical landing aid system in the background
Finally, self defense systems. In the case of the French aircraft carrier, its built-in weapons correspond to a frigate or a small destroyer. Plus - a mandatory set of tracking, detection, communication and control. However, everything is just fine here - electronics brings a minimum of problems, unlike moving mechanical parts (GEM, catapults, etc.).
All of the above factors are multiplied by the gigantism of the mechanisms and the terrible size of the ship. The result is obvious.
In the form in which there is a modern aircraft carrier - this is insane. And nothing can be fixed here - the dimensions and landing speeds of the planes are too large. But the most important thing - in our days, there is simply no need for "floating airfields".
The French are not the only ones who have fallen into this trap, seeking to emphasize the prestige of their country. Americans who have 10 nuclear aircraft carriers can simultaneously put up no more than 4-5 combat groups - the rest of the ships are in docked-hull docks. Extremely low reliability - the “Nimitz” literally “pour in” before our eyes. Persistent problems. Endless repair.
The French were aware of this, so they planned to build 2 aircraft carriers of the “de Gaulle” type - if one of them breaks down at the most crucial moment, another must come to the rescue. Naturally, all plans to build a “backup” collapsed, the results of the service of the lead ship were barely known.
PS On 2013, the year in the French defense budget (the so-called Livre Blanc) denotes no further cooperation with the UK in the framework of creating a joint aircraft carrier. In the near future, France does not plan to build aircraft carrier ships.