The French defence procurement agency (DGA) and the French Navy (Marine Nationale) started discussions with the United States regarding Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the potential future French aircraft carrier. According to our information, the program will be known as "PA NG" (for porte-avions de nouvelle génération in French).
Naval Group (Formerly DCNS) Evolved Aircraft Carrier (DEAC). This design could serve as a base for France's next generation aircraft carrier. Naval Group image.
During the Euronaval 2018 press conference held on September 24, General Sellier, DGA's head of naval programs told Navy Recognition that discussions on EMALS with American counterparts started in the summer of 2018. While he stressed that those were preliminary talks and that no firm decision have been taken (about fitting EMALS on a future aircraft carrier) yet, he acknowledged that the discussions included technical aspects.
As we reported several times in the past, France's future aircraft carrier will likely feature EMALS by General Atomics. The French Navy was briefed by NAVAIR on both EMALS and AAG at the test facility in Lakehurst in 2017.
Issued in February this year, the 2019-2025 military planning law mentions the following about the aircraft carrier: Studies will be initiated to define how a new aircraft carrier could be implemented during this period. They will define as a priority the propulsion system of the vessel and the integration constraints of new technologies, particularly in terms of catapults. These studies will help decide on a possible anticipation of its construction and the format of this component to guarantee its permanence. (ed. note: only one aircraft carrier or two...)
These preliminary definition studies started in June. These preliminary studies involved the DGA, French Navy and industry (Naval Group, Chantiers de l'Atlantique [formerly STX shipyard] and Technicatome specializing in compact nuclear reactors). A second study, focusing on design and systems is expected to be launched in the coming weeks. A "collaborative platform" has been set up to streamline the exchange of information between all parties (procurement agency, end user and industry) which accelerates the project progress. The collaborative platform was first tested (and proven) with the FTI mid-size frigate program. Contacted by Navy Recognition back in August, a DGA spokesperson said the ongoing work would help define several key aspects including schedule, pricing and technical aspects (including the choice of propulsion type) to be presented to the ministry of the armed forces.
FCAS (Airbus) / UCAV (Dassault Aviation)
In September, Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, said that the studies for a new aircraft carrier are being launched as part of the 2019-2025 military planning law. "When launching studies for a new aircraft carrier model, we are also considering whether one or two vessels are needed" she said during the "Le grand rendez-vous" show by Europe 1/CNews/Les Échos. "It is the next military planning law, the one beyond 2025, which will have to determine the means for the construction of this or these carriers and to define the number of these vessels". She stressed that the current aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is set to remain in service until around 2040 (as planned).
During the Naval Group Innovation Days, back in June, Naval Group's CEO Hervé Guillou told Navy Recognition that there are two new factors, two "unknowns" that will impact the size of a future aircraft carrier: The first one being the EMALS. Guillou explained that technical details about the EMALS were necessary in order to design and size the aircraft carrier. The second factor being the air-wing: More than the FCAS (the future manned combat aircraft currently being developed by France and Germany) Guillou stressed that the real unknown factor is the future UCAV because drones have never been used aboard aircraft carriers before: Future carrier vessels will have to be sized taking into account the "unmanned aircraft" factor.
The Dassault nEUROn tested with aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Picture: French Navy
The DGA and French Navy previously conducted a test campaign to study the use of a UCAV in a naval environment: In July 2016, the nEUROn unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator made several low altitude vertical passes above aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The test campaign included interactions at sea with the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to assess the nEUROn's stealthiness relative to the naval platforms sensors.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is designed to replace steam catapult system currently used on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first carrier to use EMALS. Due to its flexible architecture, the electromagnetic aircraft launch system can launch a wide variety of aircraft weights and can be used on a variety of platforms with differing catapult configurations.