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Our Defense Apparatus Indispensable Adaptation Is One of Our Government's Priorities

Our Defense Apparatus Indispensable Adaptation Is One of Our Government's Priorities

Address of Mrs Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs at the Inauguration of Eurosatory show. Villepinte, Monday June 17, 2002. Source: DICoD, Paris.

Mrs Mayor,

Mr Ambassadors,

Mr Chiefs of Staff,

Mr Chief of Defence Procurement,

Mr Chairman of GICAT,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to open Eurosatory 2002. Indeed, this leading show in land defence equipment offers me the opportunity of a first direct and comprehensive contact with you. Your presence proves the increasing success of this event and its opening to the world. Therefore, I welcome the numerous foreign delegations and foreign countries' representations.

The show's influence is also based on the quality of relations which have been woven with small and medium industries and enterprises for many years. The GICAT's initiatives, particularly with the "diversification and subcontracting village", are exemplary in this respect.

Thus, I wish to thank more particularly the GICAT, as show organizer, and notably its chairman and his collaborators, for their permanent investment for French and European industry.

It is true, Mr Chairman, Eurosatory 2002 happens in a breaking-off context which distinguishing features it is important to underline.

  • 1. First of all, the evolution of threats has modified the conditions in which forces, notably land forces, are used we must learn the lessons of it.

1.1. It is a commonplace to say that in the last decade, our world has changed considerably. Due to the nature of recent conflicts, to the very frontiers of Europe or on further theatres of operation, new conditions of land forces use have been and will be necessary: missions are more and more diversified and complex; participation in external operations has multiplied. For a while, we might have thought land forces use would be replaced by technological evolutions. Today, it appears more necessary than ever.

1.2. Considering these changes, complementarity between different weapons and defence systems to face new threats is henceforth indispensable:

-- Today, support systems are open and progressive; they are based on the combined and efficient action of a set of units and entities: men, vehicles, robots, UAVs, … all need to act in co-ordination and interactively;

-- information control is more and more essential;

-- the more and more frequent presence of partners in external operations, notably in peacekeeping operations, requires a perfect interoperability;

-- finally, some missions being so far away, we need a true deployment capability for our forces.

  • 2. In face of all these new threats, our responsibility is to bring adapted answers.

For that, we first need to reshape our national financial effort. It is the wish of the President of the Republic, in a breaking-off from these last years evolution.

2.1. Our defence apparatus indispensable adaptation is one of our Government's priorities. The next Defence programme law for 2003-2008 will answer these expectations and this will. It should be put to Parliament by the end of 2002. This project, wished for by the President of the Republic, needs to result in an effort to increase the armed forces' equipment budget. The 2015 military model set out in the present programme law remains its reference, as recent lessons confirmed.

Therefore, we are going to pursue and reinforce deployment and renewal of great defence systems, in all air-land combat fields: "Tigre" and NH90 helicopters, Leclerc tanks and armoured infantry fighting vehicles, missiles, information and command systems, communication systems, artillery systems, soldiers' equipment program, etc.

Finally, our capacity to remain in operational condition will have to be established in the next Finance Act. It is a strong expectation for our armed forces, and one of my priorities.

2.2. Threats being more progressive, they require an adaptation and anticipation capacity. This suggests an important effort in research and long range planning to which I am particularly attached.

We are already preparing future assistance systems for operations by devoting large studies efforts for long range planning. For instance, the federative concept of "land operational bubble" answering contact combat operational requirements includes a project for a future combat vehicle, the EBRC (contact wheels armoured vehicle). Such a vehicle's efficiency will mainly be based on complementary means such as "systems of systems", that is the whole decision aid and assistance environment (robots and information UAVs).

  • 3. Our purchasing policy also has to lie resolutely in a pan-European approach.

I am convinced that this major switch cannot be negotiated without an ambitious European policy. Research and development activities should be better shared and a co-ordinated equipment policy has to be adopted.

3.1. I believe that it is possible to make progress in this co-operation course. To achieve this goal, we need to consolidate common European procedures. France, I am sure and I commit my responsibilities upon it, has to play again its key role in the creation of European defence.

The Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) and the treaty signed within the context of the Letter of Intent (LOI) provide us with an adequate institutional and juridical framework furthering later progress.

My bilateral contacts with my colleagues have shown me the common will to progress.

European co-operation is not confined to the interoperability of our forces or to a more efficient use of our equipment budgets. It has to give birth to a full-fledged and autonomous European defence industry. It acts as guarantor of our ability to exist on an international scale. It also has numerous technological, economic and social effects.

My conviction is not always shared by everyone. It is regrettable that some of our partners heavily invest in American research schemes, while European research, reputed for its excellence, is available to cater for our needs. All that proves - should I repeat it? - that European defence policy has to be given a boost. France will contribute to that, the more so thanks to the defence programme. In this respect I am delighted that Mr Javier Solana has accepted our invitation. His presence at Eurosatory 2002 is an important sign, which I would like to emphasise.

3.2 From now on, we have to start preparing the next programmes with our European partners, seeing to a better coherence in expressing our needs.

A common research programme, named "ECAP", will prepare future European co-operations. It has enabled us to identify the areas in which the capabilities of the European Union are deficient. Several of those areas are directly linked to the needs of future air and land fighting, be it attack and transport helicopters, commandment deployment capabilities or communication during operations and associated "systems of systems".

The wealth of these experiences makes us aware of our duty to pragmatically encourage European co-operation, the methods being adapted to each project. Regular exchanges between the militaries need to provide convergence, or at least co-ordination, in expressing our needs. It is the condition of tomorrow's success.

This approach is particularly necessary as far as land armaments are concerned. Indeed, even if some sectors like aeronautics have paved the way for European co-operation, there is, gentlemen, a long way ahead, especially for land equipment such as armoured vehicles or "fire" function elements.

For instance, Europe has at least four contractors for battle tanks and more than 12 companies for armoured vehicles and several dozens for ammunitions! To gain in competitiveness and efficiency, we must commit our national and the European defence industry to studying the global architecture of systems able to talk with each other and take action jointly. This restructuring has to be implemented with a long term maintenance guarantee for our land equipment.

Your show contributes actively to the reflection on needs harmonisation: it allows all- level exchanges between the various armies. I encourage you to continue in this way.

To end, I would like to tell you again how much I trust the industrial and technological capacity of our French defence industry. We have high technological equipment that proved itself in recent conflicts, as I was able to notice directly when I visited different external operation theatres.

These systems, as I also noticed, meet with international success and prove they are suitable to the needs. They bring an optimum answer as regard cost-efficiency: the NH 90 helicopter was recently selected by several European nations and truly deserves a European programme label today; similarly, the "Tigre" was selected by Australia and we hope this programme will be extended to Spain. Our command systems meet also with big success.

The existing export support mechanisms will have to be used as much as possible and we will make sure that our manufacturers can secure the promotion of their export equipment in the most favourable conditions.

So, in this morning's particular context, I will end my address saying I wished to be with you, to inform you of my involvement in the construction of a strong and competitive European Defence, in which France must take the responsibilities that fall to it. Unfortunately, due to my duties at the end of this morning, it will not be possible for me to participate in the inaugural visit, which I regret. But the chief of Defence Procurement and the army chief of staff will not forget to give me their impressions.

I would like to tell to all the delegations present here, how much I am sensitive to their participation and wish them a very good stay in France and big success in Eurosatory Show.

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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).