One of the trial balloons floated in the last two weeks in the fevered European debate about what not to buy for defense was that France and Britain would share aircraft carriers.
Publicly and officially their defense ministers repudiated that idea today but they did raise the prospect of sharing the fleet of the hugely over-budget but technologically impressive A400M air transport, as well as helicopters and some "naval units."
“Tankers, A400s, naval units, but just to be clear not aircraft carriers, are areas where we can work toward pooling,” French Defense Minister Herve Morin said after a meeting with British counterpart Liam Fox. Several news agencies reported Morin's and Fox's remarks earlier today.
“This is about mutual interests. Our two natural partners are the U.S. and France. I can’t deny that there is an element of urgency added by budget concerns," Fox said. Even though his country won't share carriers with France, Fox left open the possibility the U.K. might cancel one of its Queen Elizabeth carriers, a decision he said would be taken in October. BAE Systems is the lead on the deal, with Babcock International Group and Thales as key partners on $7.5 billion deal.
The comments by Morin and Fox appear to leave on the table the idea that Britain might borrow F/A-18s from the United States for its carrier fleet. Britain has also reportedly considered canceling its F-35B STOVL buy for the carriers in favor of longer-range F-35Cs. this would require substantial additions to the carrier fleet, changes that have been designed to. But they would presumably increase the ships' costs.