France's decision to use conventional diesel power for its second aircraft carrier will meet operational requirements and open the way for increased co-operation with the UK, says President Jacques Chirac.

The French defence ministry says co-operation will be possible between the French project and the UK Royal Navy's Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) procurement, since the vessels will meet similar military needs, be operational around the same time and boost interoperability while supporting European Union or NATO operations.

France's second aircraft carrier will have a displacement of around 58,000t, making it larger than the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle. Expected to receive main gate approval in April or May, the UK's CVF project will lead to the delivery of two vessels of around 50,000t from 2012.

Thales UK, which is partnered with BAE Systems in delivering the CVF capability, says a collaborative three-ship project with France would offer substantial benefits, by reducing support costs and eliminating non-recurring expenditure during the development phase.

Industry observers say Thales has pledged to supply France's new ship for less than €2 billion ($2.5 billion), including research and development, although it has yet to be named prime contractor on the project. Guy Teissier, president of France's parliamentary defence commission, notes that this figure does not include the cost of providing a new tanker vessel to refuel the carrier at sea.

Preliminary study contracts for the French programme should be notified before the end of this year, with a principal construction contract to be awarded in 2006. Construction is expected to end in 2012-14.

Source: Flight International