France: President Macron confirms that the future aircraft carrier will feature nuclear propulsion

By EDR Editorial Team

8 December 2020 – The French Navy next-generation aircraft carrier (PANG, Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation) will have a nuclear propulsion, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, announced today.

“The Charles de Gaulle, as you know, will come to the end of her life in 2038. This is why I have decided that the future aircraft carrier that will equip our country and our Navy will be, like the Charles de Gaulle, nuclear-powered. Your plant in Le Creusot, which for a long time has been producing essential parts for our Navy, will produce, among others, several major components of the nuclear boiler of the future aircraft carrier […] By these choices we confirm France’s desire to preserve its strategic autonomy”, Macron said during today visit on the Framatome company’s site of Creusot (Saône-et-Loire) accompanied by the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili and the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly.

According to information released by both the French MoD and the TechnicAtome, the next-generation aircraft carrier, which will have a displacement of some 75,000 tonnes, a length of 300 meters, and an 80 meters beam, will be equipped by two K22 nuclear reactors providing a maximum speed of 27 knots.

The K22 nuclear reactor is a derivative of the K15, which currently powers the Charles de Gaulle, but will feature an increased power, from 150 MW to 220 MW. The nuclear propulsion choice closes the PANG study phase. According to information released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces the design phase will last until 2025, when production will start. Following two years of sea trials, the PANG will reach its full operational capability in 2038. The design phase will have a cost of around 900 million Euro, the 2021 investment being of 117 million Euro. No data on the overall cost were provided, “this project being worth some billion Euros” being the only available information. The choice of a nuclear power plant ensures a greater autonomy at sea, as well as a greater availability of the ship, who will need major overhauls every 10 years rather than 7-8 years typical of conventionally powered naval units.

With a crew of around 2,000 elements, the PANG will be fitted with electromagnetic catapults (EMALS) of US origin, while her carrier air wing will be centered on around 30 SCAF next-generation combat aircraft.  

More information to come

Pictorial courtesy French Ministry of the Armed Forces