There is talk in London and Paris this New Year of Franco-British cooperation on future aircraft carriers. For the French, this is not about the Charles de Gaulle, which is due to commission later in 1999, but about the next carrier in line, which will not be nuclear powered, is not formally funded, and has no firm in-service date. There is, therefore, considerable program flexibility! But the choice of aircraft already has been made—the Rafale—and this determines that the hull will be a conventional carrier design.
The British position is somewhat different. In the 1998 Strategic Defense Review, the government committed to bringing two 30,000-40,000-ton-displacement carriers into service in 2012 and 2015. The goal is to provide needed capabilities for an expeditionary strategy: principally, offensive and close air support, and air denial over both land and sea, at a sufficient sortie-generation rate, without nuclear strike capability. The British and French goals are very similar, but the British are less constrained in seeking ways to achieve theirs.