What are the strengths and weaknesses of the French Navy?

The entry into service of the new frigate Alsace, which offers enhanced anti-aircraft capabilities while retaining the anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship warfare capabilities of the FREMMs of the Aquitaine class, was rightly hailed as an important step in the effort to modernize the French Navy. Many other programs are underway to support this effort, including FDI defense and intervention frigates, Suffren-class nuclear attack submarines, Jacques Chevallier class oil tankers, the future Ocean Patrol Vessels or the SLAM-F Mine Warfare Program, all scheduled to enter service within the current decade. The following decade will see, for its part, the arrival of the replacement of the nuclear aircraft carrier Charle de Gaulle, as well as that of the new nuclear submarines launcher of missiles designated for the moment by the acronym SNLE-3G, both participants in the posture of French deterrence.

Therefore, it is indisputable that a remarkable effort has been made for several years, and in particular during the present Military Programming Law 2019-2025, to transform the French National Navy, and give it the ships, but also the aircraft necessary for its missions in the years to come. However, if it does indeed have marked advantages in many areas, like the Army, it also suffers from certain shortcomings which can severely hamper its operational capacities in the event of a High Intensity engagement, and this while it represents, in many aspects, the first line of defense and projection of power of France in the world. In this article, we will analyze these two aspects, in order to identify the priorities for defense programming in the months and years to come.

A reduced naval force but with global capabilities

In many areas, the French Navy has capabilities which, today, are only used by a handful of the world's major military navies, and thus offers France a panoply of exceptional means of action. Thus, it aligns 10 nuclear-powered submarines, including 4 SSBNs participating in deterrence, and in theory, 6 SNA (Nuclear Attack Submarines) ensuring the protection of the first, as well as large surface units. In the world, only 4 navies, outside of France, have such capabilities, those of the 4 other members of the United Nations Security Council. Added to this is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which is none other than the only non-American nuclear aircraft carrier in service to date, as well as the only aircraft carrier equipped with catapults. not belonging to the US Navy, until the entry into service of the first Chinese Type 003. This characteristic allows Charles de Gaulle to use, in addition to the Rafale combat aircraft offering capabilities identical to those of land-based aircraft, E2 Hawkeye aerial detection aircraft, and gives its on-board devices an additional extension by not wasting 20% ​​of their fuel for the take-off phase alone.

The Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear aircraft carrier and the only aircraft carrier equipped with catapults in service to date not belonging to the US Navy.

Beyond its submarine and naval airborne capabilities, the French Navy also has 3 Mistral-class Assault helicopter carriers, among the most efficient ships of this type, providing a significant power projection capacity and amphibious assault on the French armies with which very few Marines in the world are actually equipped. The Mistral PHA like the PAN Charles de Gaulle are escorted by a flotilla of frigates in full mutation, today aligning 2 air defense frigates of the Forbin class armed with 48 anti-aircraft missiles Aster 15 and 30, as well as 2 anti-aircraft frigates. -airies of the Alsace class (the sister ship of Alsace, Lorraine, will enter service in 2022), and 6 FREMM multipurpose frigates of the Aquitaine class. Very efficient in the anti-submarine field, the French FREMMs also each have 16 MdCN cruise missiles with a range of over 1200 km, again a capacity shared by a very small number of world navies to date. Added to this are 5 light stealth frigates of the Lafayette class, 4 Type 70 frigates which will be replaced by the IDF from 2025, around ten A69 offshore patrol vessels, as well as 6 Floreal class surveillance frigates which ensure the protection of the areas. naval forces of the French ultra-marine territories.

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