DCNS has offered an adapted version of its PA2 aircraft carrier design to the Brazilian Navy in response to a request issued in 2012. Brazil has aspirations to build one or two new aircraft carriers, with foreign assistance, to replace its 1963-French built carrier NAe Sao Paulo (ex-Foch) from 2025.
Although similar to the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class twin-island design, which was produced in collaboration with BAE Systems, the 60,000-tonne PA2 has conventional propulsion and a catapult-assisted launch and recovery system which is better suited to Brazilian requirements. The navy currently operates 12 ageing A-4 Skyhawk carrier-based aircraft, which are being upgraded by Embraer but are due to be replaced once the Air Force has selected its next generation fighter.
The French defence group is well placed in Brazil. It is already assisting with the renewal of its submarine force, with the build of four Scorpène class vessels and development of a nuclear-powered vessel. Their FREMM type is also a front runner to meet their requirement for new frigates. Ironically, the PA2 design, which was always intended to provide France with a second aircraft carrier, may only come to fruition as an export order. France’s economic situation and disagreements over which propulsion system to adopt have effectively ended the project.