It can only be described as farcical. Like something out of the SitCom 'Yes Prime Minister' it has been mooted that the UK and France are on the verge of declaring that they will share their aircraft carriers.
Let's hope that neither comes to fruition.
You can picture the high level talks in both nation's defence departments now can't you. Questions like 'what language will the menus be in?' 'In what denomination will the Sunday church services be run?' 'Which flag will be raised at the masthead and on what days?' 'Who has jurisdiction over the vessel with a UK captain in French waters?' Or 'Who is responsible for the incident when a French plane with a French pilot crashes on a UK carrier in French waters?'
Can each aircraft carrier be adapted to carry all the different aircraft, as well as their fuels lubricants and spares? Will all the carriers have to carry personnel accredited to operate all the possible aircraft combinations as well as all the munitions involved just in case? After all, what's the point in sharing carriers if you can't also share the aircraft?
Will guards have to be deployed onboard to stop the other side peeking inside the other's cockpit?
Who will have ultimate say over the vessel's and its aircrafts' rules of engagement?
Will jolly jack tar have to eat snails and frogs' legs? Will the French have to partake of 'le rosbif'?
The list goes on, but I'm sure it's all been thought through and that Her Majesty is comfortable with it. Remember the UK armed forces swear allegiance to the monarchy.
But the French carrier is nuclear powered, so how can it ever be under anything but total French control?
This would mean that any future military venture would have to be a joint effort, even a purely land land engagement. How could one side remain engaged with a joint venture with one service when the services of the other are taking part in a war it disagrees with?
The reality is that the shore-side chain of command as well as the crewing of the vessels would have to be a joint affair all the way up and down. Each vessel would then have to have areas to which access for nationals of the other sharing nation was denied, even on their own vessel. Why? Well, for example, one of the primary threats to a carrier is the submarine. There may well be aspects of underwater warfare that each side keeps secrets from the other. Such as access to the US Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), or specialist national satellite data and communications systems.
There are many high level secrets within the all armed forces, much of which is for sight by own nationals only. This could cause many problems at the wrong time, which is probably when you need a quick decision on whether to open fire or not.