The Charles de Gaulle has set sail for a deployment to the Indian Ocean and Singapore.

“There are departures that leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth, but not yours. Yours already has the taste of victory,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly told crew on board.

The ship recently completed an 18-month mid-life refit which included upgrades to its radars and communications systems, combat systems and a refuelling of its two nuclear reactors, which should allow it to stay in service for another 20 years.

The Charles de Gaulle does not plan to enter the South China Sea, the epicentre of the territorial disputes, according to the French ministry of defence.

The carrier battle group includes two frigates, a supply ship, a nuclear attack submarine, and occasionally ships from Portugal, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia and the United States.

In late September 2016, the Charles de Gaulle was deployed from Toulon to the Syrian coast for the Battle of Mosul. Its squadron of 24 Rafale M jets is supporting the international coalition against Islamic State through airstrikes and reconnaissance missions.

55 COMMENTS

  1. So, two frigates and an SSN as the core defensive escorts with “occasional” top-ups from allies. We (the U.K.) should certainly be able to manage 1 T45 plus 1 T23/T26 plus 1 Astute as a standard core escort group shouldn’t we? It seems a bit light to me though. Is an allied contribution really that “occasional”? I would have thought that France would have wanted to ensure there is always at least one additional frigate in the group from a friendly nation. It’s certainly a far cry from a typical US carrier group.

    • Also, just saw that the 24 Rafale M complement seems to refer to the 2016 combat deployment to Syria. I wonder what her complement is for this deployment? Is 24 the standard complement for all deployments of do the French tailor the air wing depending on mission?

      Hopefully the U.K. can move fairly swiftly past the 12 F35B stage and get to a point where we routinely sail with 24 x F35B which would be a very potent projection of power.

      • Morning Julian.

        Yes, fully agree with both posts.

        We are not the USA and our QEC does not need to be like a USN CBG.

        This touches on the previous thread on F35B too. In my opinion we need more than 48 of the B to enable regular deployments of 24 should it be necessary.

        I do not think the allied ship contribution would be occasional, but one escort from those nations on hand at any one time before being replaced by another. Maybe I’m wrong but that seems sensible to me with several nations listed.

        • Morning Daniele,
          Agree with you ,of course, on the F35 numbers. Regardless of what the RAF want to do with which version I think we need in the region of seventy carrier committed ‘planes with five squadrons of 10 ( US practice these days ) so that each carrier could run with two permanent squadrons with the option of rolling out an extra for a carrier operating in pure power projection role.

          As for escorts…if our main presence is to be East of Suez a UK/ Australian battle group makes a lot of sense and if in the Far East a UK/SEATO force could come to fruition and/or Japanese support.

          Overall, you said something similar the other day, things are beginning to look sensible for the first time in years. Let’s pray that GW doesn’t get moved in a re shuffle that is bound to happen after the B word is ever sorted out.

          • Morning Geoffrey.

            Agreed.

            I did not know US Squadrons had 10. I have always assumed ours used to have 12 or 13, and have read that Typhoon units have as many as 16?
            I also read once the French reduced their squadron sizes?

            What is the rationale for numbers per squadron? 3 flights of 3 plus 3 reserves?

          • USN Squadrons and most USMC fighter squadrons have 10 (Marines can have up to 12 depending on deployment). USAF squadrons are usually 18 to 24 depending on theater.

          • What I have read of USN carrier wings, is they usually have squadrons of 18 aircraft! Only Harkeye are small Squ’s.!

        • Daniele
          Agree we are not the USN, however for peacetime deployments I would think 1 type 45, 1 or 2 type 26 and a prowling astute/ Trafalgar class would be the minimum.
          During higher risk or war footing the QE class would need a much more substantial protective screen to include at least 2 type 45, 2-3 type 26, a close range protecting type 31 (if fitted with sea captor and CIWS) RFA ships on either beam to protect from anti ship missiles and torpedo strikes and supplemented by other NATO warships- I would like to think in a war situation our NATO allies could complement QE class CBG with a further 4-5 warships so we can get close to a USN CBG mix of warships.

          • I agree Mr Bell.

            1 T45 1T23/26 1 Astute / 1 FSS / 1 Tide / 1 Allied escort as minimum.

            Why not make that 2 T45 2 T23/36?

            I have asked this before is that really beyond the RN if it prioritises its assets to their war role?

            At the moment it is but with T31 and River why not?

            I also think in a war other vessels would be called off from their standing tasks anyway, like for Corporate.

          • I think those smaller vessels e.g. T31 and Rivers are key.

            With 6 x T45 and ultimately 8 x T26 and 7 x Astute then even with a 1 out of 3 deployability ratio we should still be able to field 2 x T45 plus 2 x T26 for escort of a single carrier at any given time. The problem is for surface escorts it leaves at best 1 x T26 for anything else so those smaller vessels really are essential for other stuff. My guess is that during peace time for political reasons most of the time one of those 4 UK escorts could probably be pealed off and replaced by an ally contributing an escort thus releasing either a T45 or T23/26 for other tasks. I can’t really see why always sailing with a minimum of 4 frigate/destroyer escorts + SSN would be unachievable.

            In addition to T31 and Rivers I’m hoping that the Hunt & Sandown replacements will be designed such that those can also fulfil some level of non-core roles. Something like a Venari 85 might, if it lives up to the promise of its design, be very useful for low intensity policing roles. In fact with the aft working deck, connected equipment garage and dedicated UAV hangar it might even be more capable than a River in such a role – assuming we ever procure suitable drones to put in such a hangar.

          • The Type 26 Frigate is designed to hunt quiet submarines, or subs. miles away.
            The engines of Type 26 sit on dampers and isolaters to stop noise from the engine being transmitted into the water, and being picked up by the warship’s very sensitive towed array sonnar. If a Type23/26 sails too close to a aircraft carrier, the noise coming from the hull will be pick up by the warship’s sonnar and drown out any faint noise coming from subs. not too far away. So a Type23/26 would need to sail some distance ahead of the fleet in order for this ship’s sonnar to function most effectively to hunt submarines. It makes more sense for a aircraft carrier to be escorted close in by air defence destroyers and frigates.
            The Type 31 frigate should be the future choice of a AAW escort frigate.

      • Thanks Lusty. That’s very respectable if correct. Many of us here are dreaming of the day, and some of us wondering if it will ever come, where a QEC could be “surged” to 36 F-35B using only UK aircraft let alone being in a situation where QE/PoW would be sailing with 36 combat jets on a routine deployment.

        • I don’t think 1 T45 would is acceptable if that is the only asset providing air cover. I know in a war zone there would be allied ships but could you imagine QE sailing through the south China Sea and China buzzing it with 49 aircraft to make a point.

      • 40t tons, nuke powered, CATOBAR and 36 fast jets. I’ll have 4 please to replace the Invincibles and Ocean and Argus. Built 8 years apart with Asture reactors. And 12 x 40t ton multi mission support ships using the same hull.
        Only 15 years too late with that wish list.

  2. It says above that she will be good for another 20 years. Well at least 10 of those will be back In Dock. Not sure she represents good value for money especially when considering the huge decommissioning and disposal costs at the end of her life.
    Does anyone have any Figures, Build costs etc ?

    • Cap,

      I know you like the old reactor decommissioning costs debate.

      I have a question, can these reactors not be used again, in another ship/ sub? Power station? Or is it just too costly/unsafe to reuse a 20/30 year old reactor?

      • I do like this subject but It never really gets “Debated” on here.

        The CDG cost more than £3 Billion to build (apparently) and she has had a further small fortune spent on Remedial works and Refuelling. She has been in and out of Dock throughout her life.
        These Reactors have a lifespan and once finished, have to be decommissioned, with the Nuclear fuel being processed Just like Civil NP Stations.

        It’s a huge financial Cost which just gets greater and greater over the Years.

        I’m not sure all the answers are there either and I’m not convinced that present Governments are In any Hurry to find them due to the Costs. Hence our Ghost Fleet of Subs tied up in port awaiting their Fate.

        To me, Our QE class are Fantastic VFM. with no “Balloon Payment” at the end.

        I reckon the French dipped out by not going ahead with their version.

        • Would certainly say there are answers for decommissioning. UK leading world with approach of try to size reduce the waste fron our subs so that minimum goes into temporary storage before long term geological storage facility is available (as opposed to Russian and American approaches of just leaving the entire middle sections of their subs in remote areas).

          Dismantling has begun at Rosyth, think SaveTheRoyalNavy had an article about it awhile back (likely out of date in relation to the current position). As with everything progress is going to be dependent on MoD/governments willingness to fund.

          • I recall the US have a deep waste repository at Yucca amongst the many underground installations on the Nevada Test Site.

            I read the UK has explored the feasibility of similar but the costs would be astronomical. I think I read that Eskmeals had been considered. I wonder if they have considered the Valley Works at Rhydymwyn in North Wales where Mustard Gas was produced and stored during the war??

          • Thankyou Robert1, Up until a few years back I was aware that certain Questions were still unanswered hence the Polaris Boats being tied up at Rosyth (I think) until recently. Have we a definite Site now for long term material Storage ?
            Yes I agree about the difference between our solutions and that of the Russians and US. It’s Particularly worrying when we see pictures of rusting boats seemingly abandoned in Russian ports.

            But It’s all down to Finances I guess.

          • Believe there’s the four R boats at Rosyth yes. According to parliament Swiftsure finished stage 1 of decommissioning last year:

            I think the Americans had a DGR at Yucca which shut in 2008, may have been used for spent fuel but not subs. Sub reactors sections are in open storage in Washington State:
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship-Submarine_Recycling_Program

            Russian subs formally were in a bad way, but funding primarily from UK, Norway and US has helped a lot. Believe majority of decommisioned reactors are now ashore in open air storage – this is the same as US ones (lots if good pictures around).

          • Robert1, That’s a hell of a long list of Boats ! and still no Permanent Solution (Answer) for long term Storage. That’s my concern.

        • They will try to go with the Eurocarrier idea- built in France- using QE design elements stolen from France’s involvement in the initial programme and funded by Germany/ the wider EU federal state.
          The CDG in service as now, is an interesting vessel, delivering quite decent capability on a relatively small hull form- in reality she is currently after the US carriers, the most capable carrier in the world. In terms of catapult launched aircraft and air wing. I think QE will deliver a better strike package at lower cost but only if we have sufficient numbers of the F35B- 72+ minimum needed in active service (6 squadrons).

  3. RGR, I think that you will find that a pressurised water reactor, which this ship has and which is common to all SSN’s as well, tends to deteriorate over time. It is working at very high temperatures and pressures, and the central structure is of course operating in very intense radiation,, in effect it is a conventional steam system with added neutrons. So it does have a finite life, most of the system can be recycled, but the central core and the high pressure circuit are highly radioactive and cannot be renewed.
    I am not sure how the French dispose of their old SSN reactors, I think the US break the boats up and have a central storage facility for the nasty bits. In the UK of course our wonderful politicians can’t make their minds up about anything, which is why there are a whole lot of old SSN’s, from the first Dreadnought onwards, sitting in Devonport and Rosyth waiting for a decision.
    I am with Daniele on this one, the sooner we commit to being able to send a full air group to sea on the QE the better. 12 aircraft is better than nothing, but it is nowhere near a full complement, and there are not enough Merlins to allow a full fit of those either. I think the original intention was to have 9 ASW aircraft and 5 AEW, that is half the total airframes the FAA has, so it ain’t going to happen any time soon.

    • Thank you all for you comments, as I’ve said before every day is a school day!

      I do remember watching a documentary about Sellafield, and if I remember it correctly they actually import a lot of radiocative ‘waste’ and do whatever they do with it, to extract useful fuel from it, thus reducing the actual amount of waste that cannot be used at all and turning a profit by re using the fuel.

      • Correct. It gets up the noses of Greenpeace and others, but If the UK has the expertise, knowhow, facilities, and can make a business out of it why not.

          • The Future building of Nuclear Power Stations is a bit up in the air in the UK though. Hinkley C, is being built but at an enormous cost and the Electricity It produces will be really expensive. Hitachi have just pulled out (or are about to) from Wales and Toshiba cancelled their Cumbria proposal last year.

            Off shore Wind Farms are gaining favour though, or so it seems.

            I remember an article a while back expressing concern that these Turbines were a risk to UK Air defences due to Radar Interference.

          • They can be which is why the MoD is consulted on new developments and, I think, can say yes or no.

          • Cap, you’re right.

            The UK needs a balance of nuclear and renewable onshore/offshore/hydro/solar generation to meet our demands and to meet our CO2 reduction targets.

            I’m not sure these massive multi billion pound sites are VFM anymore. Not if you consider how much electricity could be produced by the numerous nuclear powered subs tied up ( up to 500MW each roughly enough to power 164 homes per MW, so 500×164 =82000 homes per sub. ( yes I googled those figures)

            Makes you think doesn’t it.

            I suspect that smaller scale Nuclear Power plants might be the future.

            Any of you Doc Brown types know any Libyans with Plutonium to help with the 1.21 Jigawatts?

          • RGR, I believe RR are working on Miniature Reactors at the moment and they are pretty convinced they could be on to something.
            Fusion seems to have gone a bit quiet lately though.

        • Sellafield for recycling what can be recycled and a deep repository (cumbria due to the granite rock structure and stable geography) – the nuclear repository for medium to high level waste will cost circa £7-10 billion to build- deep mining down to +350m depth through granite and other dense rock strata. Once built however we can safely store and lock away all the nasty stuff for ever.

          • But has It been Approved yet ? I thought the whole proposal was rejected a few years back.

        • Sellafield use to cause more radioactive pollution than any other source in UK waters in the 1980s. Not limited to the Irish sea as the gulf stream spreads it right around the UK. Maybe they’be cleaned up their act since, maybe they just spin it favourably. I wonder how many nuclear powerd ships/subs it would take to be sunk to wipe out fish stocks safe to be consumed?

          Nuclear power & propulsion may be “sexy” science but it always seemed recklessly mad to me.

    • Fast neutron radiation will make metals brittle. This applies to all types of nuclear reactor but naval reactors are comparatively small and have a high energy density which makes the effects worse. Their safe life is less than a land based power plant.

  4. The US carrier groups always sail with one Ticonderoga cruiser and 3-5 Arleigh Burke’s, plus an SSN. I wouldn’t have thought we would quite need or be capable of that level of protection, but I would want to see two air defence destroyers and two asw Frigates plus an astute on any major deployment. If the T26 and T45 will eventually be primarily assigned to carrier duties, with T31 and OPV’s picking up the rest it should be more than doable. Any foreign assigned ships should be in addition to this imo, we should only need their ships to make up the numbers if we have to operate both carriers at the same time.

      • In war that changes dramatically, the USN usually doubles the escorts and expands the defensive perimeter.

        This why the discussion about Russian and Chinese asm/ssm ability to destroy a USN carrier is so flawed as it is based on peacetime operating procedures.

        • I’m pretty certain that in any future war with say Russia or China there won’t be time to add additional AAW and ASW ships to a CBG. The carriers will be priority targets for the first couple of days of any conflict, so will have to make do until reinforcements arrive. Which is what I think they have based their strategies on.
          For us, with perhaps a pair of T45s and T26s (not including other Nations ships), will the missile inventories be enough to survive and protect the carrier for the first couple of days?

          • Current MOD strategy seems to assume any future attacker will give us 10 years notice before commencing hostilities so we can build ships in the numbers needed & upgrade our underequipped existing ships.

            There’s never been a better time to carry out a pre-emptive strike against the UK. I’ve wondered for a long time how long it’d take for us to move to a war footing. We could conscript personell quickly, but don’t have the resources in place to train or equip them.

  5. So it begins. The USN has finally admitted that large surface combatants – particularly carriers and large amphibs will not longer be viable within 20 years. It’s always been my position that this is the case and we should be concentrating on attack subs and large volume underwater platforms such as SSGNs in addition to SSBNs. Perhaps even troop and cargo carriers.

    https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/navy-adds-attacks-sub-for-2020-but-shipyard-challenges-loom/

    Cheers!

    • Not entirely true! Both China and USA are building more aircraft carriers. And the UK needs to procure Astute VLS submarines and semi-submersibled arsenal ships for littoral waters.
      I do agree some Littoral regions will be denied. A solution will be found to this issue, no doubt!

      • So what you’re asking for is a type of ship that can operate in highly defended littoral waters. A ship that can soak up a lot of damage and still function. It would need sufficient armament to overwhelm the local defences, but also be able to defend itself from continuous land, air and sea attacks.
        There’s not a ship today that could do this task, perhaps we need to reinvent the monitors like HMS Abercrombie. A ship that provides gunfire support, but can defend itself against anti ship missiles soaking up damage and still have the ability to fight.
        Thoughts….

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