Aircraft carrier NG, SCAF, MGCS ..: Did France aim too high?

Just two years ago, the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, formalized the start of study work for the construction of a new aircraft carrier intended to replace the Charles de Gaulle from 2038. Since then, a lot of information has leaked out about this program, which should be, like the Charles de Gaulle, nuclear-powered, and reach 75.000 tonnes of displacement, in particular to be able to put implement the new 90-meter electromagnetic catapults needed to launch the new Next Generation Fighter of the SCAF program, itself much larger than the Rafale M. Predictably, the costs of designing and manufacturing the ship have also increased experienced a very significant increase compared to the €2 billion cost of the Charles de Gaulle built in the 90s. Indeed, while the new aircraft carrier was initially estimated at between €5 and €6 billion, it would now be a question of a design and construction cost of around €8 billion, or even more. And in the context of the preparation of the next Military Programming Law 2024-3020, which will nevertheless be endowed with around €400 billion, i.e. €100 billion more than the previous one, this cost poses a problem...

In fact, for several weeks, clues have been scattered to suggest that the PANG program could be postponed, or even cancelled, because of the arbitrations necessary within the framework of the Programming Law, especially since several other programs, including the Franco-German programs SCAF and MGCS, also promise to be particularly greedy in credit, just like the SNLE 3G program which must replace the 4 nuclear missile submarines, pillars of French deterrence. The fact is, whether it is SCAF, MGCS or PANG, it appears that each of these programs aims to develop hardware that is much larger and more expensive than the ones they will replace, not only because of the increase in technological costs and inflation, but also because of much higher ambitions, bringing French industrial defense production closer to equipment produced by the United States, and de facto moving away from what has traditionally made the operational but also commercial success of French defense equipment since the 60s.

The MGCS program aims to design a very high-tech ground combat system, which will also obviously be very expensive.

Indeed, if France devoted more than 4% of its Gross Domestic Product to its defense effort at the beginning of the 60s, the French economy was barely recovering from the scars of the Second World War, forcing the country to be inventive to design high-performance and attractive equipment, but much less expensive than the American weapon systems which imposed themselves on the market. This is how the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation designed the Mirage III, an interceptor fighter half as heavy as the imposing F-4 Phantom II, surpassing the F-104 in almost all areas, while being significantly less expensive than these two devices. At the same time, building on the success of the AMX-13, AMX designed the 30-ton AMX-36 medium tank, when the United States was producing the M-60 over 52 tons. As for the two French aircraft carriers, the Clemenceau and the Foch, they barely exceeded 32.000 tons at full load for a length of 265 m, where the American Forrestals flirted with 80.000 tons for 326 meters long.

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