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Charles de Gaulle class

Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Charles de Gaulle class

The Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier built outside US

Entered service 2001
Crew 1 150 men
Aircrew 550 men
Flag staff 50 men
Marines 800 men
Dimensions and displacement
Length 261.42 m
Beam 64.4 m
Draught 8.5 m
Displacement, full load 40 600 tons
Propulsion and speed
Speed 28 knots
Nuclear reactors 2 x 300 MW
Steam turbines 2 x 56.8 MW
Fixed wing 34 x Rafale-M
2 x E-2C Hawkeye
Helicopters 2 x SA 365F Dauphin or
AS 322 Cougar
Missiles 4 x Sylver octuple VLS launchers for Aster 15 missiles, 2 x Sadral sextuple launchers for Mistral SAM
Other 8 x Giat 20-mm guns


   In September 1980, the French government approved the construction of two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to replace its two conventionally powered Clemenceau class carriers that date back to the 1950s. However, the French CVN programme has been bedevilled by political opposition and technical problems, both with the vessel and the aircraft. The first ship of the class, Charles de Gaulle was laid down in April 1989 and launched in May 1994 but not commissioned until May 2001. Repeated budget cuts delayed work but so did a number of errors in its construction. Thus, even in 2003 the Charles de Gaulle was non-operational and still lacked a proper air group. This vessel is the flagship of the French Navy. Ship is named after French statesman and general Charles de Gaulle. It is the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, built outside US.

   As completed the Charles de Gaulle was unable to operate E-2C Hawkeye aircraft as critical dimensions were wrongly measured. Between 1999-2000, the angled flight deck was lengthened accordingly, and additional radiation shielding was also added. Currently this aircraft carrier operates navalized Rafale multi-role fighters. Previously it operated an air group comprising 20 Super Etendards.

   Prospects for a second (perhaps conventionally-powered) ship of the Charles de Gaulle class remain poor; although the navy has pressed for one (to be called Richelieu or, possibly, Clemenceau), political and popular support for such an expensive investment may never be forthcoming.

   The Charles de Gaulle is equipped with a hangar for 20-25 aircraft (around half the air group) and carries the same reactor units as the Le Triomphant class ballistic missile submarine: this permits five years of continuous steaming at 25 knots before refueling. Seakeeping behavior is improved through the fitting of four pairs of fin stabilizers.


Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Charles de Gaulle (R91) 1989 1994 2001

active, in service

? - - -

planned but never ordered


Video of the Charles de Gaulle class aircraft carrier


Charles de Gaulle class

Charles de Gaulle class

Charles de Gaulle class

Charles de Gaulle class

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