Cameron to discuss carrier sharing deal
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy are to discuss the detail of plans to share military equipment, including aircraft carriers, between France and the UK at a November summit in London.
Cameron and Sarkozy were originally set to meet in Portsmouth to discuss the plans, but that meeting will now be held in London on 2 November.
President Sarkozy is set to announce that the French navy will look to reconfigure the Charles de Gaulle so it is able to launch the UK's Joint Strike Fighters when they come into service. French defence minister Hervê Morin, speaking at the Euronaval 2010 conference, confirmed that greater cooperation concerning the two nations' carriers was being investigated.
"Beyond joint exercises, we are in favour of sharing the accompanying of aircraft carriers," said Morin. "A British frigate could perfectly well participate in the protection of the Charles de Gaulle and vice versa.
"I've asked our military command to consider the feasibility of stationing British aircraft on our aircraft carrier and vice versa," he added. "We're looking into other areas such as refuelling planes."
Earlier this month it was suggested that French nuclear facilities could be used to maintain the warheads on the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent. The French are also said to be offering the UK use of their Brêguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft following the announcement that the Nimrod MRA4 would be scrapped.
Morin said restrictions on sharing carriers "in the case of a conflict or crisis where our respective interests diverged" were likely, and any treaty agreed during Cameron and Sarkozy's meeting must cover the difficult issue of how and when the UK and France might deploy shared carriers.
The UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) determined that one of Britain's carriers would be converted to use a catapult and arrestor system to launch the conventional variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Previously both carriers had been due to take the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.
In Parliament on 26 October, defence minister Peter Luff said it had not yet been decided whether one or both carriers would be converted to use catapult and arrestor equipment. The carrier strike capability based around the conventional JSF and Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier is not due to be available until "around 2020", he said.
"We are investigating the optimum means of achieving this outcome, working with industry and our international partners," said Luff.
"No decisions have been taken as to the type of system, delivery dates or procurement route, or whether both carriers will be converted."