The Collaboration Disintegrates: Sarkozy Pulls France Out
The full reasons for the failure of the British-French carrier project will likely never be known, but certain aspects of the failure seem clear.
Timelines are difficult to coordinate between two major bureaucratic organizations within a single country, and trying to sync the needs of two different countries is nigh impossible. After the retirement of Foch and its sale to Brazil, only the de Gaulle is left provide carrier air cover for French fleets.
But lingering flaws require it to spend the better part of two years out of every six years in drydock for repairs - and this is in addition to the normal maintenance downtime needed by big naval vessels. A new French aircraft carrier was authorized in the 2008 defense budget and was likely hoped that a new carrier could enter service by the next time the de Gaulle went in for its long maintenance. But Britain, though originally hoping to bring its first new carrier online in 2014, pushed back that date to 2020. If accompanied by delays in the design itself, this may well have dimmed French hopes for a push to return to its two-carrier fleet standard.
Finances are also likely a key player. The 2008 financial collapse and the ongoing turmoil in Europe due to a probable Greek default on its debt has made any major military expenditure a risky proposal. French President Sarkozy, upon pulling out of the British-French aircraft carrier project in 2008, cited the desire to use nuclear power as a key point against continued collaboration. But a simpler explanation is that in an era of budget cuts, France is having to rethink its carrier fleet and consider maintaining only one for years to come.
If budgets remain tight, and Britain holds to its plan to keep the HMS Queen Elizabeth as its only active carrier with her sister, HMS Prince of Wales left in reserve, it is not inconveivable that France could decide to maintain one carrier and trade off deployment duties with its NATO partner, Britain.
The Sunday Times: President Sarkozy Ditches Franco-British Carrier Project
A Wordsworth Colour Guide Modern Warships; 1993 Wordswordh Editions LTD
Courtesy (respectively) of US Navy Archives, US Navy photographer Robert Barker, Wiki User Rama, and Jean-Michel Roche.