Throughout most of the Cold War period, France maintained two aircraft carriers. That changed when the FNS Foch, the last Clemenceau Class carrier, was retired in November 2000 (it now serves the Brazilian Navy as the Sao Paolo). As Strategis notes, France has lacked the capacity to ensure long-distance air coverage during the FNS Charles de Gaulle’s maintenance cycles or during other periods when the carrier is not available for active duty (approximately 35% of the time). In 2015, the ship will be taken out of service for an extensive maintenance overhaul. Despite a slippage in initial construction dates from 2005 to 2007-2008, the French still hope to take delivery by 2014 so the new ship can be operational by the time their sole operational aircraft carrier goes off line for repairs.
That was the original idea, anyway. Recent developments once again cast doubt on the PA2’s future. The time for a decision was postponed to 2011, but in 2013, DCNS was still waiting, and became increasingly clear France couldn’t afford a second carrier. In fact, the firm is taking its case to the export market. Who might be interested within the next decade is unclear.