French defence procurement agency DGA has formally awarded DCN and Thales a “relay contract” to continue their work on design of the planned ‘PA2’ aircraft carrier. This marks a major milestone in the design of this second carrier for the French Navy. The PA2 design phase was officially launched by French Minister for Defence in January 2005. The studies undertaken since early 2005 have focused on the opportunities for cooperation between the French PA2 and the British CVF programmes. These studies concluded, moreover, that the basic CVF design could, with limited tailoring, meet the French Navy's requirements.
PA2 is a conventional-propulsion aircraft carrier to meet the French Navy's needs. The new contract, worth 20 million euros, will enable the PA2 team to proceed with a detailed preliminary design of a “tailored CVF”. These studies will be undertaken by the integrated DCN/Thales prime contract office. The milestone marking the end of the design phase and the start of the production phase is scheduled for late 2006.
In June 2004, DCN and Thales put forward a proposal to jointly lead the French Navy's PA2 future carrier programme. The partners have since set up an integrated Prime Contract Office. This PCO will report to a jointly owned company with a four-member equal-representation. DCN will have a 65% interest in the company and Thales Naval France the remaining 35%. The company is in the process of being set up. The aim of this company is to manage the conception, manufacturing and entry into operational service of France's second aircraft carrier in 2014.