Royal Navy May Share New Carriers With France

Royal Navy May Share New Carriers With France
May 18th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Royal Navy May Share New Carriers With France

Royal Navy May Share New Carriers With France
London Sunday Times
May 18, 2008 By Nicola Smith and Michael Smith
Two hundred years after the battle of Trafalgar, the navy could end up sharing the pride of its fleet with the French. Driven by spiralling budgets, the two navies began talks last week aimed at sharing their aircraft carriers.
The government is expected to give the go-ahead for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers this week, part of a joint Anglo-French project to build a total of three.
The French, who currently have only one carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, are questioning whether they can afford a replacement and are keen to explore closer co-operation with Britain instead.
“We all have budget constraints and we are looking to see how we can rationalise and reinforce our resources and work together,” commented a French diplomat who is close to the talks.
Both countries are facing a £2 billion shortfall in their defence budgets and the cost of the new carriers at just under £2 billion each is proving a major burden.
The “bilateral carrier group interoperability initiative” was proposed by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, at his summit meeting with Gordon Brown in London in March.
French sources suggest it could result in either navy borrowing an aircraft carrier from the other if their own was unavailable as a result of a breakdown or refit.
“If we have no carrier to do a mission then the only way currently is to try and form a coalition . . . and to ask a country if it will do the mission,” said Captain Jérôme Erulin, the French naval spokesman.
Erulin pointed out that Britain and France could only borrow each other’s carriers if both countries agreed on the military objectives. “The only way for France to obtain an air carrier mission during a carrier refit is to ask a country at a political level to do this,” he said.
Nick Witney, former head of the European Defence Agency, said that if France could not afford to go ahead with a new carrier, sharing capabilities with the British made good sense.
“It could do a deal with the Brits to co-ordinate refit cycles and joint naval forces,” Witney said. “Then the French can say if we want to bomb someone when our single carrier is in refit the Brits can do it for us.”
MoD officials dismissed the talks as “aspirational” and insisted there were “no current plans” to share carriers with the French.
The problem with having only a single carrier is not confined to the French. Earlier this year Bob Ainsworth, minister for the armed forces, confirmed that one of the Royal Navy’s two existing carriers, the Ark Royal, will go out of service in 2012.
The first of the new carriers is not due in service until 2014 at the earliest, leaving the Royal Navy with only one carrier for a period of at least two years.
The other British carrier, Illustrious, will go out of service in 2015, Ainsworth said, again leaving the navy with only one carrier until the second replacement is completed in 2016 at the earliest.
That means the Royal Navy will have only one carrier for at least four years, so that despite its talk of mere “aspirations” it might be forced to borrow a carrier from the French.

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