Could France and Germany Jointly Build an EU Aircraft Carrier?

Sebastien Roblin

While discussing France and Germany’s joint development with France of the FCAS sixth-generation stealth fighter in March 2019, the new head of Germany’s governing CDU party Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer raised eyebrows with her suggestion of a chaser.

“As a next step, we could start the symbolic project of building an aircraft carrier to give shape to the role of the European Union as a global force for security and peace.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed the idea a few days later.

 “It’s right and good that we have such equipment on the European side, and I’m happy to work on it.”

Between Brexit and the increasingly erratic foreign policy of the United States, Berlin and Paris believe they need to move forward in building not only a common European security policy, but even common European forces.

But many commentators were scornful of the concept, pointing out that Germany is struggling to maintain the size and readiness of its current forces and remains well below the 2 percent of GDP guideline on defense spending.

How on Earth could Germany find the money and political will to field an entirely new and highly expensive platform like an aircraft carrier?

But What Do the French Think?

Notably, no officials in France subsequently jumped on board with the idea.

In May, French defense minister Florence Parly remarked in a TV interview “I don’t think we’re quite there yet. We first have to think about what kind of circumstances would a European aircraft carrier get used.

“It’s one thing to build a few carriers, it’s another to put them under European command.  That’s a lot more complicated . . . . We’re not quite there yet, though we’ve made enormous progress."

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