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France selects nuclear propulsion option for future aircraft carrier

French president Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that the country’s next-generation aircraft carrier will be nuclear powered.

The projected new carrier, known as Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération (PANG), is planned to replace the French Navy’s current carrier FS Charles de Gaulle in about 2038.

Computer-generated imagery of the French Navy’s next-generation aircraft carrier. (Naval Group)

Computer-generated imagery of the French Navy’s next-generation aircraft carrier. (Naval Group)

Macron made the announcement during a visit to French nuclear power company Framatome in Le Creusot on 8 December. Framatome builds nuclear reactors and associated equipment, and is set to provide several major elements of the new K22 reactor slated for PANG.

Following the president’s announcement, the French Ministry for the Armed Forces and Naval Group provided more details of the likely characteristics of the PANG design.

With a full load displacement of about 75,000 tonnes, an overall length of 300 m, and an 80 m beam, the new carrier will be significantly larger than Charles de Gaulle , which displaces 43,182 tonnes and has a length of 260 m. The new carrier will have a crew complement of 2,000, including personnel from the air wing.

PANG will be designed to accommodate about 30 fighters in addition to an undisclosed number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), airborne early warning and control aircraft, and helicopters. It will be able to operate the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) being developed under the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme by France, Germany, and Spain. The maximum take-off weight of the future aircraft is expected to be about 30 tonnes.

Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly said that an option to operate a multinational air group is being studied. A French parliamentary report published in October revealed that vertical landing spots adapted to the F-35B are also under consideration.

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