FEATURE | Franco-German aircraft carrier on the horizon?

Design study for new French aircraft carrier

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emanuel Macron recently announced agreement to pursue far-reaching Franco-German defence co-operation.

In a follow up move, in early March 2019, Merkel, and her likely successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, gave their initial backing for an aircraft carrier to be built for joint use by German and French forces.

A project to develop a new aircraft carrier for the French Navy is already under way, and the resultant design could possibly form the basis for the construction of a Franco-German carrier. Both countries have ample shipbuilding capacity, and a naval version of the planned Franco-German strike fighter could form the core of the carrier’s air group.

Germany would, however, have to overcome many challenges. Planned increases in national defence spending are currently due to be absorbed by implementing improvements to the poor material state of many of the country’s existing defence assets, while laws which currently restrict the activities of German forces in combat zones, would have to be subject to amendment, probably in the face of stringent political opposition.

Some analysts believe, though, that a Franco-German aircraft carrier would be so powerful, and visible, a symbol of EU defence co-operation, that the project might well in due course acquire strong political backing.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.