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A New Professional Army for France

A New Professional Army for France

The Style of Armed Forces in the year 2015 (Part 10)

The strategic options behind the main characteristics of the new-style Armed Forces favour prevention and projection of forces, deterrence being maintained at a level of adequacy.

Prevention implies the development of intelligence, especially spatial intelligence and the prepositioning of forces. The stress placed on projection leads to the conception of compact, mobile, versatile Armed Forces, available at short notice and disposing of modern equipment enabling tactical superiority from the outset.

Availability and versatility require professionalisation, a further reduction in the duration of military service being no longer compatible with the high degree of technicality and training required for such forces. The intention not to increase the operational budget allocated to the Armed Forces implies a significant reduction in staff.

The Army is to undergo the greatest changes. With a staff of 170 000 men (136 000 military and 34 000 civil staff), it will adopt a new organisational structure in order to reduce the number of headquarters and support bodies and to concentrate on operational tasks. Henceforth, the Army is to be deployed around a Tank Force, a Mechanised Force, a Rapid Intervention Tank Force and a Storming Infantry Force.

With a balanced distribution of heavy tanks (Leclerc) and light tanks supported by Tigre helicopters, along with an increase in the range and precision of long-range weapons, the Army's means of combat will be reinforced with field surveillance and data processing equipment.

The Navy will continue to be a largely deterrent force with the implementation of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile-armed submarines (SNLE) and associated equipment. It will continue its prevention tasks, through presence and surveillance missions carried out by its surface vessels and its sea patrol aircraft. It will maintain its power projection capacities through a naval air group, an amphibian group and nuclear assault submarines (SNA). It will have a staff of 56 500 men (45 500 military and 11 000 civil staff).The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is to be equipped with "Hawkeye" advanced warning and Rafale aircraft.

The Air Force will undergo a change in the size of its combat force which will eventually comprise 300 modern, versatile aircraft of the Rafale type capable of implementing the most innovative weapon systems, including cruising missiles. Military air transport will be modernised as from the year 2003 in order to at least maintain present performances and in-flight refuelling capacities are to be improved. The Air Force will count 70 000 men (63 000 military and 7 000 civil staff).

All these measures will lead to the closure or the reduction of units or military bases all over the national territory and abroad, the overall number of staff in the Armed Forces being reduced by about 30%.

The Gendarmerie Nationale (National Military Police Force), on the contrary, will undergo an increase in staff numbers in order to take into account its new role in the protection and security of the national territory.

A special effort will be made to ensure the inter-operability of our forces, by favouring the complementarity of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, the capacities of our military forces to act with those of our allies, along with our means of combined command and communication projectable to zones outside our national territory are to be the object of reinforced attention. As European Forces are to cooperate more frequently, they are also to economise means by developing combined methods of discussion and co-ordination.

Thus, the French Armed Forces are to undergo considerable reorganisation. A period of six years will be required in order to complete the professionalisation of the Armed Forces, whilst preserving, in the best possible manner, the interests of the men and women within Defence and maintaining the operational capacities of the military tool.

Sources: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence

French Embassies in London and Washington.

For more information, go to French National Defense.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).