On 26 July 2017, the French National Assembly defence committee auditioned Stéphane Meyer, President of the French Land Defence Industry Association (GICAT). GICAT represents 225 members, among which two research institutes, defence giants such as Airbus, Thales, Safran, MBDA, Nexter, Renault Trucks Défense, etc. (8%), other big companies (20%) and SMEs (70%). Stephen Meyer gave a clear assessment of the industry’s strengths and weaknesses, identifying key priorities to not only boost the industry but also secure France’s geopolitical influence.
he French land defence industry is vital to the French economy with 6,3 billion EUR benefits in 2016 – 9% more than in 2015 – and 20 000 direct and indirect jobs in France, mostly in the Centre-Val de Loire, Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur et Ile-de-France regions. The sector produces innovative, high-technology equipment such as the combat helicopter « Tiger », the battle tank Leclerc, small protected vehicles (PVP), infantry combat armoured vehicles (VBCI), armoured personnel carriers (VAB), the gun-tractor « Caesar », the « Patroller » drone, etc., which together guarantee France’s military capacity and geopolitical influence.
The government should focus on the following three priorities:
- Having a defence budget matching national ambitions.
France risks losing its military capability if most vehicles and equipment are not replaced in the near future. The objective of raising defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2025 is necessary in order to avoid supply discontinuities – as with the VBCI, which were only produced until 2015, and will not be replaced by the « Griffon » before 2018.
- Supporting innovation and exportation.
Only 10% of R&D studies concern land defence. The budget for R&D studies should be increased in order for the French Army to keep its technological advantage and for France to keep its leadership in patents. The French government, National Assembly and embassies should also step up to foster exportation which represented 41% of benefits in 2016. Exports are vital to the industry’s long-term economic balance.
- Steering the Europe of Defence along with Germany.
European defence cooperation must organise around the Franco-German couple. Obstacles such as diverging objectives, diverging strategies (competition in Germany vs partnership in France) and the lack of intergovernmental agreements (such as the Lancaster House Treaty) can be overcome by encouraging mergers (such as Nexter-KMW), common programmes (such as the Franco-German joint project to develop the new European fighter jet) and notably the European Defence Fund.
Photo credit : © Fotolia – Droits achetés / Neosema dans le cadre de la création