French Second Aircraft Carrier (CVF FR)
Deuxième porte-avions français (PA2)
During the fourth quarter of 2004 DCN and Thales established a joint PA2 Project Office (Maitrise d'Oeuvre Porte Avions No 2 - MOPA2) in the Paris area, this will now control the project and act as the platform design authority under the terms of a DGA contract worth just under €20 million.
On 24 January 2005 the French MOD announced that a PA2 Design Phase contract worth approximately €100 million would be awarded by the defence procurement agency, DGA, to DCN and Thales Naval France - who would act as joint PA2 prime contractors. Other major manufacturers in the naval sector such as Alsthom-Chantiers de l’Atlantique and EADS would also participate in the design and engineering study which would complete in "Summer 2005" - earlier statements had suggested by the end of June 2005. The MOPA2 was to also look at opportunities to co-operate with the UK's CVF carrier programme, subject to final government approval.
The MOPA2 would then lead and coordinate the detailed design work, to be completed by the end of 2006. It was expected that the design will be sufficiently developed and de-risked by mid-2006 for the French MOD to be able to place the actual order for the ship in October 2006.
Official sources indicated that the PA2 definition and design work would cost about €500 million in total - the 2005 Defence Budget included €167 million for definition studies and de-risking, which presumably includes the contract awarded in January 2005. In order to have the ship in service by the end of 2014, it was considered essential that by the end of 2006 the design was basically complete, the method of construction decided and quantified (costed), and the principal industrial partnership agreements have been negotiated and signed. Construction work, which is expected to cost about €2 billion, will begin in 2008, with sea trials starting 2013 prior to official completion and commissioning in 2014, and an in-service date of early 2015.
In July 2005, French Navy's project manager Capt. Jacques Bresson said that the French version of CVF could cost around 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion), based on the latest UK estimates of £3.1 billion to 3.6 billion pounds ($5.4 billion to $6.3 billion) for CVF.
Subsequent reports have indicated that Euro 2.7 billion had become a firm budgetary cap, and if it cannot be met then the PA2 project is in danger of cancellation, industry is expected to make a firm costed proposal by the end of 2007.
The French 2007 Defence Budget allocated another Euro 700 million of funding for PA2, taking total funding so far provided for PA2 to €1.63 billion.
A full proposal made to the DGA by the MOPA2 at the end of 2006 for the construction of PA2 was apparently priced at about €3 billion (about £2 billion or $3.8 billion). Vigorous negotiations, some small cuts in equipment fit, and insistence that the total project costs must come within the available budget, had by March 2007 apparently resulted in a reduced build price of €2.5 billion (about £1.7 billion, i.e. less than the £1.9 billion each the UK is expected to pay for its far less expensively equipped ships!)
Assuming DLR approval by April 2007, detailed design work would commence immediately, the construction contract would be signed in late 2007 or early 2008; and first steel would then be cut in 2009 with a 2015 in-service date targeted.
Construction of PA2 is now (early 2007) expected to start in 2009, hull construction is currently expected to be subcontracted to an Aker Yards subsidiary, the former Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard at St. Nazaire. By the beginning of 2007, Aker had "several dozen" engineers working on PA.2 and it's believed that the yard has quoted €900 million for the task, which will take two years. DCN Brest will then be responsible for the flight deck, systems integration and final outfitting.
Since 2005 there have suggestions of a possible work sharing agreement in relation to constructing the hulls of the two British and one French CVFs - with French trying to lead the discussions. However the British announced in December 2005 the planned approach for the manufacture of their carriers, and MOD officials and senior managers in British industry publicly expressed concerns about the potential complications and problems of associated with close cooperation with France. By September 2006 the French appeared to have given up as a result of UK non-cooperation, however in January/February 2007 the French renewed their efforts in an attempt to reduce costs. For the first time the UK appears to have been receptive, and began reviewing its approach to the manufacture of the CVF's, with decision expected by the end of April 2007.
After lengthy consideration, the French government made an announcement in February 2004 that PA2 would use a conventional rather than nuclear propulsion system.
The Thales' PA2 proposal made in late 2003 used the same Electric Propulsion System with gas turbines and pods that Thales UK was proposing for CVF, however DCN had done a considerable amount of work investigating propulsion options, and despite a close association with Rolls-Royce, for an aircraft carrier of this size equipped with steam catapults it favoured using a modern steam (boilers and turbine) propulsion system with conventional shafts. As DCN was leading the ship platform design and build aspects of the Romeo Project/Juliete, it's ideas would have predominated if that Project had continued.
It was expected that the UK and French CVF's would used identical propulsion systems, but by September 2006 it emerged that the French were considering different machinery and propulsion arrangements from the UK in order to increase speed.
Rolls-Royce has been made responsible for the UK CVF propulsion system, and its solution is centred on 2 MT30 gas turbines and electric motors driving two conventional shafts. However the French Navy is unhappy about the resulting maximum speed of under 26 kts for its 70,000 tonnes PA2 - 5,000 tonnes heaver than the UK's CVF variant. The original requirement for PA2 was 29 kts. Aker Yards, DCN Propulsion and Alstom have been talking with American company General Electric and have developed an alternative solution for PA2 which is based on 4 LM2500+G4 gas turbines - attractively the same engine as being fitted to the Franco-Italian FREMM frigates - powering a centre shaft and two propulsion pods. This solution will give about 28 kts and bring associated benefits such as better hydrodynamic efficiency (i.e. more speed for less power), increased space within the hull and improve ship manoeuvrability. At the beginning of November 2006 GE made a preliminary offer to DCN for the 4 gas turbines based upon its standard catalogue price, negotiations and discounts can be expected to follow.
Rolls-Royce has been invited by the French to submit a counter proposal that will reach at least 27 kts, it remains to be seen what if anything this will be - and whether the UK MOD would then adopt it as well.
If the proposed new propulsion solution adds significantly to build costs, and the UK is unwilling to share these, than France might yet be forced to revert to the original baseline.
It's expected (late 2006) that PA2/CVF FR will carry a 40 aircraft air group comprising up to 32 Rafale combat aircraft, plus Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and NH90 helicopters. T
The ship will be fitted with two American manufactured C13-2 steam catapults - 90 metres long (nominal power stroke of 309.7 feet) and able to launch aircraft at over 150 knots. The catapults will be powered by an auxiliary steam generating plant; the launch rate will be one one aircraft every 30 seconds - an Alpha Strike of 24 aircraft in 12 minutes. In order to land returning aircraft, the ship will also have a mark 7 Mod 4 3-wire arresting gear and barricade. The catapults are expected to be ordered by France under an American Foreign Military Sales agreement in early 2007.
Hanger area will be 4,700 sq metres, flight deck area: 15,700 sq m and fuel storage capacity for 5.0 million litres of aviation fuel (JP-5)
It's planned that PA2 will be fitted with a version of the système automatique de tranquillisation de la plateforme (SATRAP) to enable the flight deck to be fully operational up to sea state 5/6. This system consists of lead weights totalling 500 tonnes or more that move athwartships to reduce roll significantly. The UK does not have a similar requirement for CVF.
Combat Systems and Armament
It's expected (late 2006) that PA2/CVF FR will be far more heavily armed than than the RN's CVF's.
The PA2 will be equipped with an integrated CMS derived from that under development for the FREMM frigate programme. Sensors will include a multifunction Herkules surveillance radar, a medium range surveillance radar, IR sensors and optronic sensors.
The integrated internal and external communications suite will include radio links (HF, UHF and VHF), as well as tactical datalinks (Link 11, L16 and L22) . The datalinks will be used for real time high-speed exchanges between the PA2 combat system and Hawkeye AEW aircraft to generate the tactical picture which will be distributed to other naval units, combat aircraft and helicopters.
Self defence systems will include an 8 cell Sylver vertical launch silo for Aster 15 missiles (two 8-cell silo's were in early plans, but an economy was made), a SLAT ant-torpedo defence systems, and small calibre (20mm or 30mm) guns providing all-round coverage. EADS and its subsidiary company MBDA have been awarded a study contracts concerning the integration of the SAAM Aster system with PA2.
It's possible that rigid budget constraints may cause some downscaling of equipment compared with current hopes.
Note: Links open in new windows
French National Assembly
- L'AVENIR DU GROUPE AÉRONAVAL : La nécessité d'un second porte-avions
- Examen du rapport de la mission d'information sur le mode de propulsion du second porte-avions
- Audition de M. Denis Ranque, président-directeur général de Thales
© 2004-13 Richard Beedall unless otherwise indicated.