US-French deal on new aircraft carriers may fix Sub Snub flaw

September’s surprise AUKUS deal on submarines may have opened a rift between them, but Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron can heal injured Franco-American relations when they meet in Rome later this month here by focusing on another valuable asset: aircraft carriers.

Closer maritime coordination makes sense. As France and the United States seek to secure massive Exclusive Economic Zones, they have a common interest in strengthening maritime security, law enforcement, and legal standards at sea.

Deeper collaboration on aircraft carriers is a great place to start.

AUKUS made it awkward, but French and American strategic interests remain aligned.

Throughout most of October, US diplomats shuttled through Paris, checking the damage after the announcement of the tripartite “AUKUS” defense agreement between Australia, the UK and the United States. -United. French anger over the poorly communicated strategic snub was exacerbated by the simultaneous collapse of Australia’s $ 65 billion deal to buy 12 “Shortfins” Barracuda French class submarines.

Presidents Biden and Macron are expected to meet at the G-20 summit in Rome from October 30-31, where they would discuss a host of relationship-building plans. Macron will face the polls in just six months and will seek victories that will suit a national audience while advancing his long-standing interest in strengthening France’s strategic autonomy.

Ideally, Macron would return from the G-20 with a set of high-end, high-tech collaborations capable of offsetting the bad feelings surrounding the “AUKUS” snub.

While America’s rapprochement with France will be a multifaceted affair covering a range of issues, the deepening of the already collaborative Franco-American approach to maritime affairs offers an easy path to a G20 ‘victory’ of high level for both parties.

While America is eager to tackle a series of maritime security challenges, France is in the early stages of an aircraft carrier recapitalization program. Its current carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle (R91), is expected to retire at the end of the 2030s. To replace the aging flat-top, France intends to build a medium-sized nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and has approached the United States for a technological support.

It would be an easy victory. America and France are already working together on these maritime issues. Affirming a more in-depth collaborative approach to these two exceptional strategic needs offers real added value to both parties.

Collaboration Om AAircraft carriers are a natural next step.

In terms of prestige and power in the maritime sector, the only ship that matches the strategic value of the nuclear submarine is the nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

America and France have a lot to offer in a common aircraft carrier project. America has the raw technology, integration expertise, and the most media design experience. France, by developing a smaller transporter of around 75,000 tonnes, offers the United States a reduction in risk and a proof of concept of the modern utility of small transporters.

In a few years America may want a smaller transporter design. Despite a new mass of 100,000 tons Ford class supercarrier Coming out of a long period of testing and testing – and three more on the way – Pentagon strategists and budget watchers continually balance the usefulness of major US carriers against their enormous cost. And while America has a lot of experience with Forrestal class carriers, it is more than fifty years since the last aircraft carrier (light) of 60,000 tons of the US Navy entered service. America’s understanding of the various design compromises in a midsize carrier could use a modern refresh and France is uniquely positioned to provide that.

EMALS gives an advantage.

France, of course, is eager to exploit EMALS, America’s new electromagnetic “launch and recovery” system. Catapult systems are central to aircraft carrier design and were, ironically enough, originally advanced through a joint collaboration between the United States and the United Kingdom. France needs launch and recovery technology to operate heavier planes.

America and France are already working to bring EMALS into the next French carrier. Formal discussions began at the end of 2018, when the two countries signed a “letter of offer and acceptance for a case study”, a first step in the transfer of high-tech military equipment. “Rough order of magnitude” cost estimates were presented in 2019. Technical discussions continued, and in December 2020 President Macron announced that the carrier project was moving forward. In April, the French division general Nicolas Hué, head of management unit, mission and support aircraft, DGA and rear admiral Eric Malbrunot, deputy head of naval operations for the plans and programs of the Navy joined the ‘USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) final independent steam event post-delivery testing and testing. Theoretical specifications reported by Naval News suggest that the new French aircraft carrier will use three EMALS catapults, including one possibly dedicated to drone launches.

Putting EMALS on another smaller platform – and potentially converted to a smaller form factor – is extremely useful. Understanding how the electromagnetic launch system fits into a smaller ship is particularly beneficial, potentially opening up opportunities to place EMALS on smaller flat decks in the United States and elsewhere overseas.

With more and more users gaining experience with EMALS, the operational parameters of the system can be worked out much faster. Testing the platform under different loads, conditions and maintenance regimes will only enhance the reliability of the launch and recovery system while speeding up the development of use profiles for aircraft of different weights and acceleration tolerances. Different operation and maintenance practices can reveal efficiency gains. Working together on these basic functional catalysts is a necessary path towards interoperability. Both parties will win.

Even something as specialized as EMALS offers mutually beneficial collaborative opportunities in maritime surveillance. The U.S. Coast Guard actively working on the development of tactical and theater-level unmanned surveillance platforms, with the prospect of expanding coverage – by exploring, for example, the electromagnetic launch and recovery systems that enable the use of drones from smaller patrol ships, austere islands, or ships-of-opportunity — would be a game changer. The prospect of launching and recovering an interoperable network of high endurance unmanned surveillance aircraft from low-cost France Mistral Class amphibious assault ships and equally cost effective Lewis B. Extractor The Expeditionary Mobile Bases class offers an interesting challenge for both countries.

Coordination in disputed exclusive economic zones

With sprawling exclusive economic zones, France and America have a common interest in maintaining maritime order. France has several overseas territories strategically placed in increasingly contested areas. Both countries face the daunting challenge of surveying over 4.3 million square miles of sea; the establishment of shared means of surveillance, analysis and intervention at sea makes sense.

Collaborations are already underway. At sea, the two countries regularly demonstrate the interoperability of aircraft carriers, sailing together and sharing flight decks. France and the US Coast Guard are participating in Canada’s Operation Nanook and conducting other multinational military and search and rescue exercises. Joint work with Interpol on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and continued coordination in Oceania provide a solid basis for establishing a deeper working relationship between these two advocates of a more orderly ocean.

The US Coast Guard is also establishing collaborative partnerships and surveillance networks to track and reverse illegal behavior in the maritime domain. And the United States, as they work with France on their new aircraft carrier, will continue to reflect on the prospect of bringing smaller, cheaper aircraft carriers into service. Quickly repackaging these ongoing collaborations into a deeper, more strategic portfolio of large-scale projects is an easy exercise.

Even with the tensions of AKUS, the sea provides a solid basis of shared interest between France and the United States. When Presidents Biden and Macron meet later this month at the G-20, they are expected to capitalize on the opportunity, bridging the gap caused by an undersea deal with something equally valuable to both countries – functional aircraft carriers suitable for the future.

About Theresa Burton

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