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French-British Cooperation on Aircraft Carriers

Joint statement by Mme Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of Defence, and Mr Geoffrey Hoon, British Minister of Defence¹. On board the "Charles de Gaulle" aircraft carrier, 9 June 2004. Source: French Embassy in the UK. 

At Le Touquet (February 2003) and in London (November 2003) France and the United Kingdom agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation by joining efforts to give our countries, and Europe, the capability required to face new challenges. Building on these commitments, our respective Ministries of Defence have intensified efforts within the framework of existing agreements between France and the United Kingdom to develop further cooperative opportunities. A promising area in this respect, in view of the similar timescales of our respective programmes, is aircraft carrier cooperation. Since the United Kingdom’s Future Carrier Programme was initiated in 1999, both governments have reaffirmed on several occasions their willingness to seek every opportunity for wider cooperation. The choice, in February 2004, of conventional propulsion for the second French aircraft carrier has further extended the potential scope for such cooperation.

There are two strands to this work: procurement and operational.

The objective of the procurement strand is to reach, by June 2005, an agreed understanding between industry and both Ministries of Defence on the prospects for industrial cooperation between the two programmes.

The process of convergence will consist of appraising, through direct contacts between French and United Kingdom industries, the means of achieving industrial cooperation to reduce costs, time and risks for the benefit of the two nations and industry.

This work has already begun against a challenging schedule. On 13 February, France announced its decision to have a conventional propulsion carrier. Three months later, Direction de Construction Navale and Thales joined together to create a dedicated company for the Deuxième Porte-Avion programme [PA2] and had initial exchanges with their British counterparts. Industrial talks are currently identifying cost and time savings and reductions of risks for both programmes. Notwithstanding our differing operational requirements, which could potentially require different designs, there are promising paths of cooperation on systems, sub-systems and equipment dealing with, but not limited to, power generation and distribution, propulsion, ship control, data distribution and surveillance systems. We expect an initial view including, where appropriate, a quantitative assessment on risk reduction and financial benefits from industry by the end of September 2004.

We remain committed to identifying the potential benefits of cooperation in all programme phases (development, purchasing, manufacture, manning, training and support) and, respecting the principle that nothing should be done to prejudice either nation’s schedule, aim to have a complete definition of the boundary of possible cooperation by summer 2005.

In the operational strand, we continue to pursue the development of enhanced interoperability between our carriers and air-groups today and in the future. The first results are particularly encouraging and include:

 - the integration within the French Air Group on board the "Charles de Gaulle" of two latest variant Royal Naval air surveillance Sea Kings, interoperable with French Hawkeyes,

- a continuing personnel exchange programme.

With respect to the immediate future:

- we shall scope further personnel exchanges with the aim of further increasing mutual understanding in the field of aircraft carrier and related operations,

- studies on the cycles of at-sea replenishment and support of aircraft carrier operations, and on the compatibility of French and United Kingdom supply ships, will enable us to achieve greater flexibility in the logistic support of these future carriers.

Furthermore, we will continue work on developing mechanisms to achieve greater synergy of maintenance and operational cycles with the objective of maintaining at least one of our aircraft carriers permanently available.

Together these initiatives, focused on increased commonality and interoperability, and consistent with the objectives of the European Union’s Headline Goal, reflect our continued firm commitment to the overall development of European military capabilities in support of multinational, European and NATO operations./.

¹ Source of English text: UK Ministry of Defence.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).