We should share aircraft carrier, say French
Britain and France are set to share an aircraft carrier as part of plans for far closer integration between the two navies, the head of France's fleet has said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
With no Royal Navy carriers available for at least the next decade, the French navy will be a significant partner in helping train British sailors Photo: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
10:00PM BST 06 Jun 2011
Admiral Pierre-Francois Forissier also disclosed that the French navy was amazed by the swath of cuts last year that severely reduced the Royal Navy with the axing of aircraft carriers and Harrier jump jets alongside warships.
"From a French standpoint, I have to say that we were really stunned because the Royal Navy has always been a model for us and it is now faced with a very difficult situation," he said.
He also highlighted the shortcomings of the weakened British fleet, suggesting that the Libya campaign could have been "more efficient" if there had been a second aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. At present there is only the Charles de Gaulle. Its aircraft are responsible for more than a quarter of all attacks but soon it will need to dock for maintenance.
"If the UK did have another aircraft carrier in the Libyan theatre that would have been a support for the RAF because they would need less hours of travel and they would have been more efficient," said the admiral.
"When you only have one carrier that means you don't have permanent availability because of maintenance issues and, of course, it would be better to have two carriers."
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While France only has one carrier, it is possible that the second of two 60,000-ton British carriers being built could be shared by the two countries to be used only for training in a move that would save millions for both nations. Speaking at the French navy's headquarters in Paris, Adml Forissier said: "If we have the necessary budget it would be useful to each have a national carrier then have an extra carrier — not as expensive and for training uses — for UK and French use.
"It would be useful to have a carrier in Europe for training pilots, otherwise we would need two carriers on both sides and I do not think this is economically feasible."
British aircraft could fly missions off French carriers in the future, the admiral said. "When you carry out an attack it is the nationality of the aircraft [that is important], so potentially in the future you could have UK aircraft operating for a UK mission from a French base."
With no Royal Navy carriers available for at least the next decade, the French navy will be a significant partner in helping train British sailors.
Adml Forissier said: "The Royal Navy has lost its know-how for 'catapult carriers'.
"To run a carrier to its full capacity you need 10 years [of training]. The challenge is to prepare ourselves during this 10 years so that when the Queen Elizabeth [the first 60,000-ton carrier] is ready it can be operable in a very short time."
He also suggested French and British troops would eventually be needed in Libya for "humanitarian duties".
The admiral added that more French sailors were learning English as a result of the agreement made last November between David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.
"We need to represent European civilisation and values in a globalised world in which there are not as many Europeans," he said. "We have no choice but to start working together."
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