The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier recently embarked on its third Major Technical Stop (ATM) contract, leaving Toulon just three weeks ago for sea trials. This significant event in the life of the ship builds upon an intermediate technical stop which began in May and comprised of numerous maintenance and renovation tasks.
During that interim period, the carrier saw improvements to its medical facilities and crew living areas. A notable advancement was the upgrade of the combat system, which welcomed the integration of the Syracuse 4 satellite communication station, boasting enhanced power and heightened security.
Looking ahead, the upcoming third ATM is slated for 2027 and is set to incorporate a multitude of advancements. Key among these will be renovations to the combat and anti-missile systems to keep pace with progressive technology in defense.
Specific installations planned for the third ATM include the Sea Fire radar by Thales, the cutting-edge SETIS 3.0 combat management system from Naval Group, and a revolutionary reconfigurable firing installation from MBDA deploying ASTER missiles. Both the SETIS 3.0 system and the Sea Fire radar will feature on the future Frigates of Defense and Intervention (FDI) of the French Navy.
The Sea Fire radar is a particularly impressive piece of equipment, with capabilities to track over 800 tracks, detect aircraft and missiles over 500 km away, and spot surface ships over 80 km distant.
Another area of interest the third ATM will delve into is the ship's propulsion system. Depending on the state of the tanks of its two K15 nuclear reactors, the service life of the carrier could potentially be extended beyond 2038. This would permit the French Navy to maintain two aircraft carriers in service.
An amendment has been adopted during the consideration of the Military Programming Law (LPM) 2024-30, which calls for a report on the “cost and viability of maintaining service after 2040” of the Charles de Gaulle.
The exact cost of the third ATM has not been disclosed by DGA. Nevertheless, documents published by the Ministry of Economy and Finance regarding the 2023 Finance Law hint at an investment of €579.31 million in commitment authorizations.
The primary goal of the third ATM is to preserve the current capabilities of the aircraft carrier. This will involve replacing equipment that cannot remain in operational condition until retirement, integrating mature cross-cutting systems during the major technical stop, and implementing recommendations from the review of nuclear safety.