France and UK set joint carrier timetable

10th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE, June 9 (AFP) - Britain and France took a new step Wednesday toward cooperation in building future aircraft carriers, setting a timetable for developing common ground within a year.

ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE, June 9 (AFP) - Britain and France took a new step Wednesday toward cooperation in building future aircraft carriers, setting a timetable for developing common ground within a year.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and her British counterpart Geoff Hoon, meeting aboard France's nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle carrier off the southern English city of Portsmouth, said the two sides had set a June 2005 target for reaching an industrial accord.

"The objective of the procurement strand is to reach by June 2005 an agreed understanding between industry and both ministries of defense on the prospects for industrial cooperation between the two programs (on aircraft carrier construction)," the ministers said in a joint declaration.

The ministerial meeting was aimed at furthering discussions about whether and how to align their countries' efforts to expand their naval fleets.

Both nations have announced the construction of conventionally powered aircraft carriers, meant to be operational by 2015. France said in February it was planning to build one, while Britain intends to build two.

Initial discussions are already under way between the major military firms in both countries which are likely contractors for the multi-billion, multi-year projects, including France's electronics defense firm Thales and warship builder DCN.

"Industrial talks are currently identifying cost and time savings and reductions of risk for both programmes," the joint statement said.

The two sides agreed an interim deadline of September for an initial joint evaluation of the prospects of such an industrial pact.

"We expect an initial view including, where appropriate, a quantitative assessment on risk reduction and financial benefits from industry by the end of September 2004," the ministers said.

They recognized the fact of differing operational requirements which might require different designs, but said: "There are promising paths of cooperation on systems, sub-systems and equipement dealing with... power generation and distribution, propulsion, ship control, data distribution and surveillance systems."

Hoon, speaking at a joint news conference, pointed out the two sides' differences in requirements, notably in the type of aircraft used.

The aim, added Alliot-Marie, was to optimize costs and interoperability, and to reduce technical risks.

Britain and France, the motors of the European defense industry, began moving closer at a 1998 Franco-British summit which laid the foundation for cooperation in the defense arena.

At a London summit in November 2003, the cross-Channel neighbours had reinforced their ties to give themselves, as well as Europe, the means to meet today's new challenges, the statement said.

The Charles de Gaulle - the largest fighting ship ever made in Europe and France's only aircraft carrier - was docked in England as part of yearlong ceremonies for the 100th anniversary of England and France's "Cordial Entente".

It returned in May from a three-month mission in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions, with a British frigate, the HMS Gloucester, taking part in its battle group.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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