France will begin the construction of its next-generation nuclear aircraft carrier by 2026, with sea trials to start by 2037.
In an interview with the daily Le Parisien, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu confirmed that the next Military Planning Law for 2024-2030 would include the construction of the PANG (Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération, New Generation Aircraft Carrier), slated to start between the end of 2025 and the beginning of 2026.
“The companies Naval Group, Technicatome, and Chantiers de l’Atlantique will be able to start its construction,” Lecornu said. The content of the Military Planning Law for 2024-2030 will be fully released on April 4, 2023.
What is the PANG?
The upcoming vessel should be larger than the French Navy’s current flagship. It will measure over 300 meters in length and weigh 75,000 tons ‒ against 261 meters and 42,500 tons for the Charles de Gaulle. The two nuclear steam generators will be much more powerful than those of Charles de Gaulle, with a total power of 450 Mw, instead of the current two reactors of 150 Mw each.
“There are only two countries left in the world that know how to build and operate nuclear aircraft carriers: the US and [France],” the Minister said. “Having a carrier battle group strengthens our presence well beyond our own maritime space.”
That timeline, however, may be challenged by France’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne. According to the weekly newspaper Le Canard enchaîné, the head of government is lobbying to delay the beginning of the construction by two years, beyond the end of President Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term. The calendar change would allow saving €1 billion on the budget Borne has to approve. The total program is estimated at around €7 billion.