What are the strengths and weaknesses of the French Navy?

The Forbin anti-aircraft defense frigate of the French Navy

The entry into service within the French Navy of the new Alsace frigate , which offers reinforced anti-aircraft capabilities while retaining the anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship warfare capabilities of the Aquitaine class , was rightly hailed as an important step in the effort to modernize the French fleet.

Many other programs are underway to support this effort, including the FDI defense and intervention frigates , le Suffren-class nuclear attack submarines , le Jacques Chevallier-class tanker tankers , il futuro Ocean Patrollers or and the SLAM-F Mine Warfare program , all scheduled to enter service this decade.

The following decade will see, for its part, the arrival of the replacement for the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle , as well as that of the new nuclear ballistic missile submarines currently designated by the acronym SNLE-3G, all two participants in the French deterrent posture.

Therefore, it is indisputable that a remarkable effort has been made for several years, and in particular during this Military Programming Law 2019-2025, to transform the French Navy, and give it the ships, but also the aircraft necessary for its missions in the years to come.

However, if it indeed has marked advantages in many areas, like the Army , it also suffers from certain shortcomings which can severely hamper its operational capabilities in the event of a commitment. of High Intensity , even though it represents, in many aspects, France's first line of defense and power projection in the World.

In this article, we will analyze these two aspects, in order to determine the priorities for defense programming in the months and years to come.

A reduced naval force but with global capabilities

In many areas, the French Navy has capabilities which, today, are only implemented by a handful of the world's major military navies, and thus offers France a range of exceptional means of action.

Thus, it lines up 10 nuclear-powered submarines, including 4 SSBNs participating in deterrence, and in theory, 6 SNAs (Nuclear Attack Submarines) ensuring the protection of the former, as well as large surface units. In the world, only four navies, apart from France, have such capabilities, those of the four other members of the United Nations Security Council.

Added to this is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which is none other than the only non-American nuclear aircraft carrier in service to date, as well as the only aircraft carrier equipped with catapults. not belonging to the US Navy, until the entry into service of the first Chinese Type 003.

This characteristic allows the Charles de Gaulle to use, in addition to Rafale offering capabilities identical to those of land-based aircraft, E2 Hawkeye aerial detection aircraft , and gives its on-board devices an additional extension by not wasting not 20% of their fuel for the take-off phase alone.

The French Navy has, with the PAN Charles de Gaulle, a unique military tool in Europe
The Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear aircraft carrier and the only aircraft carrier equipped with catapults in service to date not belonging to the US Navy

Beyond its onboard submarine and naval aeronautical capabilities, the French Navy also has 3 Mistral-class assault helicopter carriers, ships among the most efficient of this type, providing significant projection, power and amphibious assault to the French armies which very few Marines in the world are actually equipped with.

The PHA Mistral like the PAN Charles de Gaulle are escorted by a flotilla of frigates in full mutation, today aligning 2 air defense frigates of the Forbin class armed with 48 Aster 15 and 30 anti-aircraft missiles, as well as 2 anti-aircraft frigates. -aircraft of the Alsace class (the sister ship of the Alsace, the Lorraine, will enter service in 2022), and six FREMM multi-purpose frigates of the Aquitaine class.

Very efficient in the anti-submarine field, the French FREMMs also each have 16 MdCN cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,200 km, again a capacity shared by a very small number of world navies to date.

Added to this are 5 light stealthy frigates of the Lafayette class, 4 Type 70 frigates which will be replaced by the IDF from 2025, around ten A69 offshore patrol vessels, as well as 6 Floréal class surveillance frigates which ensure the protection of spaces naval forces of French overseas territories.

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