France and UK to join forces with new carriers

13th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - France and Britain appeared headed towards jointly building new-generation aircraft carriers after Paris announced Friday that it would not use nuclear propulsion in its next flagship vessel.

PARIS, Feb 13 (AFP) - France and Britain appeared headed towards jointly building new-generation aircraft carriers after Paris announced Friday that it would not use nuclear propulsion in its next flagship vessel.

 The announcement confirmed long-standing speculation that France would opt for conventional power on its next aircraft carrier - instead of the nuclear propulsion in its current sole carrier, the Charles de Gaulle - in order to fall into line with plans for the renewal of the British navy.

It also underscored an ever-closer military cooperation between Britain, France and Germany that the United States fears could sideline NATO in the European theatre.

"The choice brings a response that is perfectly adapted to the operational needs of the decades to come and opens better perspectives of cooperation with the United Kingdom," President Jacques Chirac's office said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to Chirac by telephone to thank him for the decision, Chirac's office said.

Chirac's office said that, "following a proposal from the prime minister, the president of the republic has chosen classic propulsion for the second aircraft carrier which France is due to acquire."

The decision to make the vessel diesel-powered comes as Britain is seeking ways to keep costs down on its GBP 3 billion (EUR 4.4 billion, USD 5.7 billion) project two build two new aircraft carriers by 2015.

The shared ambitions of the EU partners has pushed them to consider jointly building the three carriers in a move that would benefit major defence contractors in each country, notably France's Thales and Britain's BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

One idea reportedly discussed between the French and British defence ministers, Michele Alliot-Marie and Geoff Hoon, was to build two-thirds of the British carriers in Britain, and the remainder in France's Saint-Nazaire shipyard, which built the Queen Mary 2 commercial cruise ship.

A spokesman at Britain's ministry of defence welcomed the French decision, saying it "opens the way for cooperation between industries on either side of the channel in order to satisfy the respective needs of the two navies.

"The decision is particularly significant in this year marking the centenary of the Entente Cordiale and it will help reinforce the defence capabilities of Europe as well as Franco-British cooperation," he said.

In 2004 France and Britain are celebrating a hundred years since the signing of the Entente Cordiale - the pact that led to their military alliance in World Wars I and II.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

 

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