Next-generation French aircraft carrier will be nuclear-powered, says Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron listens to explanations during his visit to Framatome, an international leader in nuclear energy, which designs, manufactures and installs fuel, instrumentation and control systems for nuclear power plants, in Le Creusot, France , December 8, 2020. Laurent Cipriani / Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s next-generation aircraft carrier will be nuclear-powered and replace the flagship warship of the national fleet, Charles de Gaulle, in 2038, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.

The 11th aircraft carrier of the French Navy will be equipped with the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system developed by the American company General Atomics, French officials said.

The transporter will be 300 meters long and have a deadweight of 75,000 tonnes. It will be able to carry up to 30 Rafale combat aircraft or the successor to the Dassault combat aircraft currently being developed by France, Germany and Spain.

The French army had initially loaned for a conventionally powered ship, but with Macron then opted for a nuclear powered ship, despite higher construction costs, for technical and strategic reasons.

“Our strategic future, our status as a great power, lies in the nuclear industry,” Macron said during a visit to a manufacturer of components in the nuclear sector.

France is the only nuclear power in continental Europe. Britain is also a nuclear power, although its relationship with the European Union – from trade to security – once it leaves the EU’s orbit on January 1 remains uncertain.

The French state will invest one billion euros during the first phase of development which will end in 2025, said the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Ministry officials declined to comment on media reports that the ship could cost more than 5 billion euros ($ 6.05 billion).

Three other western aircraft carriers have been built since the first deployment of Charles de Gaulle. The Gerald R. Ford and America of the US Navy and the Queen Elizabeth of the British Royal Navy, which cost around 3.1 billion pounds ($ 4.03 billion).

Reporting by Sarah White and Geert De Clercq; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Edited by Richard Lough, William Maclean

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