With a new aircraft carrier, France seeks to strengthen its military ties with the United States

American allies in Europe want to show the new Biden administration that they have the means and the courage for serious military action. Latest example: the unveiling by French President Emmanuel Macron of plans for a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

This month’s announcement of the replacement of flagship Charles de Gaulle strengthens France’s position as the United States’ first strategic ally in the European Union following Britain’s exit. Mr Macron is also increasing French military spending and urging neighbors to strengthen their armies rather than relying too much on the United States

“It is a combat ship, symbol of power, testimony to our capacity for action,” said Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly on Twitter..

“It is the voice of France on all the waters of the globe.

Mr Macron says the United States will only respect European allies if they strengthen their armed forces. The new aircraft carrier, expected in 2038, affirms “France’s desire to preserve its strategic autonomy,” Macron said in a December 8 speech announcing the new aircraft carrier at a manufacturer of nuclear components.

Masters of the waves

France has announced that a new aircraft carrier will replace the Charles de Gaulle in 2038. Here are the countries with the largest aircraft carriers.

Some European officials, including the German defense minister, have expressed doubts over Mr Macron’s promotion of European power, noting that Europe cannot defend itself without the United States.

Still, officials and analysts say the French focus on capabilities and action is appreciated in Washington, even though Mr Macron’s comment last year that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization knows a “brain death” caused consternation.

“There are very few countries in the world that have this ability to project power,” Retired US Admiral James Foggo said of the planned carrier. “France has everything we have, but on a smaller scale. They are a very valuable partner for us.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants to “deepen and revitalize” relations with European allies, who have suffered from trade measures and harassment from President Trump on issues such as low military spending. In a call with the NATO Secretary General last month, Biden said he wanted to work with the allies “to ensure that NATO has the strategic direction and capabilities it needs. needs to strengthen deterrence and counter new and emerging threats, ”said his transition team.

In Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a country reluctant to use force due to its history, plans to increase military spending this month have suffered a setback. The Social Democratic Party, a junior partner of the ruling coalition, is preventing the country’s military from acquiring drone weapons.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who supports the arming of drones, told parliament that German soldiers from Kunduz province in Afghanistan told her how, during a rocket attack, a drone not armed located the firing position, but they had to crouch down and wait for American support.

“I have heard a lot in recent days about the strategic autonomy of Europe … that we must discuss and negotiate with the Americans on an equal basis,” she declared on December 9. sky to see when the air support from the Americans would finally arrive, they did not feel that we can act on an equal footing with America.

French relations with the United States have been close but at times tumultuous since the Treaty of 1778 which helped defeat the British. France withdrew from NATO’s integrated military command in 1966 and opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. But France returned to NATO military structures in 2009, and relations have grown stronger in recent years.

French soldiers participate in military exercises in Versailles, France, in October.


Photo:

benoit tessier / Reuters

In recent years, the United States has pressured its allies to do more for European security as Washington’s attention has shifted to China. This year, France is expected to be one of 10 NATO members, including the United States, to exceed the alliance’s spending target of 2% of gross domestic product. The French government plans to increase spending next year by 4.5%. France has led efforts in Africa’s Sahel region to fight Islamist militants, supported by US intelligence and logistics services.

“France’s robust posture coincides with the American recognition that it cannot always be in the lead and wants its allies to share the burden,” said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a Char thinker. “France and the United States have a desire to project a power that is not shared with all European countries.

The Charles de Gaulle, commissioned in 2001, was the symbol of close cooperation with the United States, particularly in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. At the end of 2015, Paris sent its flagship to the head of the US naval force against the terrorist organization, the first time that a foreign ship has occupied such a role. Upon returning to the region the following year, retired Admiral Foggo, then commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet based in Naples, Italy, recalled standing on the ship’s deck as warplanes French-made rafale rushed forward to strike Islamic State targets.

“This is very important for the alliance and for France,” said retired Admiral Foggo, now a distinguished member of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank.

The Charles de Gaulle uses a similar catapult system to launch jets as US aircraft carriers do, meaning their fighters can operate from each other’s decks. During the maintenance of Charles de Gaulle in 2018, French pilots trained on the aircraft carrier George HW Bush. In March, French and American fighters exchanged bridges between the Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Charles de Gaulle during training in the Mediterranean.

The new French aircraft carrier, still unnamed, will be significantly larger than its predecessor. Stretching over 300 meters, or 984 feet, it will carry 30 jet fighters, either Rafale jets or their successors, currently under joint development by France, Germany and Spain. The projected weight of 75,000 metric tonnes is heavier than any active transporter except America’s largest vessel, the Gerald R. Ford. It will be equipped with a San Diego-based General Atomics electromagnetic launch system, which means it will be able to handle American fighters in the same way as its predecessor. Like the Charles de Gaulle and American aircraft carriers, the new ship will be powered by nuclear energy, which will decrease its dependence on port visits for fuel.

Write to James Marson at [email protected]

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