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A New Start for the Defence Industry (17)

A New Start for the Defence Industry (17)

"The future equipment of our Armed Forces can only be ensured at the price of an adaptation of our industrial armament policy"… : Jacques Chirac, 23rd February 1996.

The Government has decided to reinforce our industrial structures in the fields of high technology and to rationalise the whole armament sector. This decision was necessary in the face of increasing international competition. Restructurations on a national and on a European scale are absolutely essential for the maintenance and development of our industry.

In the first instance, these measures concern the aeronautic and electronic industries. France holds major assets in these two fields. These industries were capable of taking up the challenges of post-war reconstruction and the great programmes launched by General de Gaulle. Our place is among the best, both in Europe and throughout the world, in the fields of civil (Airbus, ATR) and military (Rafale) aeronautics, helicopters, missiles (Ariane, strategic systems, tactical missiles), data and communication systems, equipment, etc.

Our companies are to have the best cards to hand in order to consolidate this position and to be capable of creating even more activities, which in turn will generate employment. It is essential for them to come together in all the fields where an economic and industrial interest is at stake, for they must increase in size and competivity.

The Government has the strong intention of bringing this project to a successful conclusion. It has the means of succeeding whether through its participation in the companies concerned (Aérospatiale, Thomson SA, Dassault Aviation) or within the framework of the decisions and options in terms of investments to be made within the coming military programming bill. It is intent on implementing these means.

Two decisions have just been made : the privatisation of Thomson SA and the reunion of Aérospatiale and Dassault Aviation. In both cases the objectives are clear :

  • to preserve the integrity of industrial, technological and human capital whilst developing essential synergies ;
  • to preserve the interests of National Defence ;
  • to open new development perspectives ; - to pursue and reinforce the policy of alliances, reunions or merging which have already taken place on a European level, as is the case between Aérospatiale and the German group DASA.

In the ship-building field, a work-group is heading a study on the future of DCN industrial service. It has just made a diagnostic which brings to light the strengths and weaknesses of industrial service and ten shipyards around which a phase of active discussion is presently underway.

As far as land armaments are concerned, the Chairman of GIAT Industries has just carried out, at the Government's request, a full examination of the company's financial situation. A phase of discussion is underway in order to draw up a development plan in terms of possible European alliances.

The present environment, the difficulties encountered by certain companies in the armament, aeronautic and space sectors are not to engender withdrawal symptoms. France must have a determined and dynamic view in these fields of excellence and our Nation is up to it indeed. This is the project the Government is setting up. It will, in particular, comprise the maintenance and development of the innovative abilities of our high technology small and medium-sized companies and industries. Such is the condition for a healthy industry in the future.

Finally, the General Armament Delegation (DGA), founded by General de Gaulle in order to endow France with a nuclear deterrence force, must now re-establish its missions and methods within a renewed procurement system in order to be better suited to a tighter budget and a more structured industrial situation than at the beginning of the 1960s.

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).