The French Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes) has revealed that France spent EUR214 million (USD274 million) on its studies for a potential common Anglo-French aircraft carrier programme, which was eventually abandoned.
In 2006-07 France paid a total of EUR112 million to the United Kingdom as an "entry ticket" to the UK's Carrier Vessel Future (CVF) programme, and a further EUR102 million on contract studies related to industrial co-operation, "with results now unusable", the court's annual report states.
France currently operates a single aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle , which is operational only about 65% of the year, due to heavy maintenance requirements on its nuclear power system.
France therefore began discussions with the United Kingdom in 2002 to launch a common programme to share development costs. However, these plans were suspended in 2008 before being cancelled in 2013 by France's military programming law (LPM).
The court describes the EUR112 million entrance fee to the programme as "a pure French financing contribution to the definition phase of the British aircraft carrier programme", while the EUR102 million studies are "considered obsolete", and therefore wasted, given the cancellation of French plans for a second carrier.
The Anglo-French studies looked to create two carriers for the UK Royal Navy, the currently in-build Queen Elizabeth-class, and one for the French Navy. However, according to the Cour des Comptes, the project was compromised from its beginning
First, the schedules for the two nations were different, with France seeking a carrier in 2015, and the UK only in 2020. Second, the requirements for the two nations were very different: short take-off and landing (STOVL) for the UK, and catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) for the French Navy.
Additionally, the savings from the programme were estimated to be worth only about EUR50 million for the French Ministry of Defence. The two country's industrial strategies were also geared towards national shipyards and suppliers. When the UK government formally launched its CVF programme in 2006, the decision to grant the workload to British firms effectively killed the Anglo-French co-operation programme, according to the court's report.