French Navy receives refitted aircraft carrier

The French Navy’s sole aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle has been returned to the navy after a mid-life refit, Naval Group said.

FS Charles de Gaulle leaves the dry dock at Toulon Navy base on May 16, 2018. Photo: French Navy

As informed, the vessel will now start ramping up its systems before returning to its operational cycle in early 2019.

The 1.3 billion euro renovation of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, which entered service in 2001, was performed to ensure the vessel’s operational performance levels for the next 25 years and ensure that it maintains its technological advance at the service of France’s interests.

According to Naval Group, the refit focused on three major challenges — firstly, the modernisation of the combat system in particular with the modernisation of the tactical system, the brain that manages the sensors and weapons, the installation of new digital networks, the complete replacement of the Control Room, the renovation of the telecommunications systems, the replacement of the air search and navigation radars.

Secondly, the modernisation of the aviation installations covered all the necessary modifications to switch to an “all-Rafale” setup — modification and renovation of the aviation spaces, renovation or replacement of deck-landing systems.

The third challenge of the refit relates to the renovation of the platform i.e., amongst other things, the modernisation of the vessel control PLCs, the renovation of the automatic stabilisation and steering control system, the replacement of two units of the vessel’s cooling system, but also the refit of the control simulator and of one galley.

In addition to this renovation, the mid-life refit of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft also comprised through-life support work. This aspect of the project related essentially to the maintenance of major installations — the inspection of the two nuclear reactors and the replacement of their fuel elements, the maintenance of the electrical power plant, the maintenance of the propulsion system, the inspection of the catapults, shaft lines and stabilizing fins, and the painting of the underwater hull and topsides.

The aircraft carrier entered dry dock in February 2017. It was floated out in May 2018 and at the end of July 2018, it docked at its operational quay for harbour acceptance trials. The vessel then performed sea outings for the trials that must be performed in operational conditions, with the support of other French Navy entities.

Recently, the French defense ministry announced it would launch a study phase to look into the replacement of Charles de Gaulle. The study phase would span 18 months during which the navy and the defense ministry will identify what they will want to have in a new aircraft carrier.