Written by Major D. Mikhailov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #5, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
France has a well-developed military-industrial complex that can meet the current needs of the national armed forces for basic weapons and military equipment, including nuclear weapons.
At the present stage, the development of the French military-industrial complex is carried out within the framework of the doctrine reflected in the “White Paper on Defence and National Security” of 2013. Another fundamental document is the “Programme of Construction and Technical Equipment of the Armed Forces for 2019-2025”. According to these documents, the country’s military policy is based on three main principles: “protection” of the independence of the people and national territory, “deterrence” by nuclear forces, and rapid “response” to the changing geopolitical and economic situation in the world.
The military-political leadership of the republic has historically pursued a course to meet the needs of the armed forces mainly through the production capacity of the national military-industrial complex as one of the conditions for ensuring the “strategic independence” of the state.
The base of the military-industrial complex amounts to more than 170 companies, about 30 of which are leading. Among them are the plants of the companies Airbus Group, Safran, Dassault Aviation”, Nexter, Thales, Naval Group, Arquus. They account for at least 70% of all production capacity.
The country is characterised by a complete industry structure of production, including nuclear.
Large associations of companies, which include the majority of the enterprises of the military-industrial complex in France, have a mixed form of ownership with state participation. Thus, the government, which holds a controlling stake in corporations such as the Airbus Group, Safran, Thales and Naval Group, reserves the right to make strategic decisions and veto other ones that threaten the interests of the state. The majority of the medium-sized and small companies involved in the production weapons and military equipment are owned by private capital.
The military-industrial complex provides 170 thousand jobs involving more than 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Its production facilities are located in areas with developed transport infrastructure, which ensures a high level of production logistics. A third of all military-industrial enterprises are located in the Paris region, the remaining part – in the regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Brittany and Aquitaine, and their share in the remaining departments does not exceed 5% of the total number.
Despite the “strategic independence” of the military-industrial complex, its research and production base are not designed for the full cycle of development and manufacture of modern weapons and military equipment systems, so the country takes an active part in international military-industrial cooperation with its EU and NATO allies.
The rocket and space industry (RSI) is one of the strategic industries that ensure the defence capabilities and economic security of the state, including maintaining the high competitiveness of France in the world market. Its distinctive feature is the centralisation of management and strict state control. The task of organising research in the field of outer space is assigned to the National Centre for Space Studies of France (CNES – Centre national d’études spatiales), the main governing and coordinating body of the rocket and space industry.
The leading manufacturers of missile weapons are the unit Space Systems of the company Airbus Defence and Space a part of the Airbus Group corporation, and MBDA-France of the company MBDA Missiles Systems of the MBDA Corporation. They are used to manufacture the M-51 SLBMs, Ariane and Vega launch systems, ASMP-A cruise missiles, as well as air- and sea-based Scalp-EG and Scalp-N missiles, Mica air-to-air missiles, Exocet anti-ship missiles, Aster-30/15 long- and medium-range missiles, and Mistral short-range missiles, Milan and Erike anti-ship missiles.
One of the main representatives of the industry is also considered a multi-profile enterprise of the company TDA Armaments of the Thales Corporation (Marsilly-en-Villette, Loire Department), which produces air-to-surface Aculeus-LG laser-guided missiles designed to equip Tiger attack helicopters.
The engine building is carried out by the companies Europropulsion S.A. (t. Kourou, overseas department of French Guiana) and Erakles (Saint-Médard-en-Jalles and Le Haillan (Gironde)) of the consortium Airbus Safran Launchers [Note from Trans.: Correct company’s name is ArianeGroup.]. Their production base allows them to produce engines for SLBMs, cruise missiles of all classes, and Ariane-5 and Ariane-6 launch systems.
Shipbuilding is the second most important branch of the military-industrial complex in France. The capacity of shipbuilding enterprises allows them to build warships of almost all classes, including aircraft carriers, submarines, universal landing ships, landing helicopter docks, frigates with guided missile weapons, patrol ships and combat boats.
Large enterprises of the shipbuilding industry are united in the association of manufacturers of military equipment for the Navy GICAN (Le Groupement des Industries de Construction et Activités Navales).
The main representative of the French military shipbuilding is the Naval Group corporation. Its shipyards have production facilities for the construction of nuclear aircraft carriers, the final assembly of the Mistral-type landing helicopter docks, the construction and repair of the Barracuda and Scorpion submarines, as well as multi-purpose frigates of the FREMM Project.
The Naval Group is engaged in equipping the French submarines and aircraft carriers with nuclear power plants, with the involvement of various contractors. MAN Diesel Turbo specialises in the production of other power plants. The plant (Saint-Nazaire, Loire Atlantique Department) produces diesel-electric power plants for submarines and ships of all classes.
The aviation industry is one of the most dynamically developing sectors of the country’s military-industrial complex. The main companies in the aviation and rocket and space industries are members of the association of the French aerospace industry GIFAS (Groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales), which represents their interests in government bodies, promotes international cooperation and promotes their interests in the national and foreign markets.
The core of the production base consists of the factories of the corporations Dassault Aviation, Safran and Airbus Group. The range of products they produce includes: Rafale tactical fighters, Tiger attack helicopters, H-225M Super Puma multi-purpose helicopters, AS-332, AS-365/AS-565 Dauphin/Panther, NH-90 and Patroller UAVs.
The parent company of the Dassault Aviation Corporation (Mérignac, Gironde) carries out the final assembly and modernisation of the Rafale fighters of all modifications. In addition, work is underway to create a promising attack UAV under the Nero programme.
One of the leading companies in the production of multi-purpose and attack helicopters not only in the country, but also in the world, is Airbus Helicopters (Marignane, Bouches-du-Rhône) of the corporation Airbus Group. The design office is also located there. In addition, the company includes a plant for the production of components for the La Courneuve helicopters (Seine-Saint-Denis).
Aircraft engines are manufactured at the enterprises of the Safran Aircraft Engines Company of the Safran Corporation. The parent company is located in Courcouronnes (Essonne Department).
The French armoured vehicles industry fully meets the needs of the national armed forces in armoured vehicles. The main manufacturers of these products involved in the industry are united in the association of industrialists in the field of land weapons and military equipment GICAT (Groupement des industries françaises de défense et de sécurité terrestres et aéroterrestre).
The range of military equipment produced by the armoured industry includes the main battle tank Leclerc, armoured combat vehicles, self-propelled artillery installations. The enterprises of the Nexter and Arquus corporations have established the production of the AIFV VBCI, Aravis multi-purpose armoured vehicles, 1155-mm Caesar self-propelled howitzers. As part of the Scorpion programme, it is planned to implement a contract for the transfer of Jaguar and Griffon combat vehicles to the ground forces.
Engines for combat vehicles are produced at the plant of the French division of the company Iveco – Iveco France (Annonay, Ardèche), as well as at the plant of the company Vartsila (Mulhouse, Haut Rhin). Assembly of tank engines is carried out at the company Moteur Baudouin (Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône).
Components are manufactured at the enterprises of the corporation Nexter (city of Tulle (Department of Corrèze and Saint-Chamond, Loire)), as well as the companies Iveco (Bourbon-Lancy, Seine and Marne) and Soframe (Duppigheim, Bas Rhin).
The artillery and rifle branch of the French military-industrial complex supplies all types of armed forces with appropriate weapons of its own production: automatic aircraft and naval guns, guns for armoured combat vehicles, large-caliber guns for field artillery and mortars.
The Nexter Corporation has the monopoly in the industry, which produces a full range of artillery weapons: combat modules with 20- and 25-mm guns for ground forces ACVs, automated ship artillery installations, 30-mm aviation guns for aircraft and helicopter turrets based on 20-mm guns. In addition, 105- and 155-mm field artillery guns, 81- and 120-mm mortars are produced for the needs of the ground forces. The ammunition industry fully meets the needs of the armed forces for artillery ammunition, aerial bombs, torpedoes, shells and cartridges, explosives and gunpowder. The key companies in the industry are Nexter Munition and Nexter Systems of Nexter Corporation, as well as TDA Armaments of Thales Corporation.
One of the most technologically advanced military industries in France is the radio-electronic industry. Assembly plants have the capacity to produce automated control systems for all types of aircraft, avionics, aircraft, ships, nuclear missiles, multi-purpose submarines and spacecraft. In addition, electronic intelligence, electronic warfare, satellite, radio, radio relay and fiber-optic communications, radar stations, navigation equipment and laser equipment are produced.
Radio-electronic systems for military purposes are manufactured at the enterprises of the corporations Thales, Safran, as well as the company Airbus Defense and Space of the Airbus Group corporation.
Thus, the French leadership continues to pursue an independent policy aimed at implementing plans for the development of its military-industrial complex, which is of strategic importance for ensuring the national security of the state. Increasing arms exports, close cooperation with partners in the EU and NATO in the field of high technologies and the creation of the latest models of military equipment allow the country to successfully compete in the global arms market.
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