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Building Tomorrow’s Industry and Land Armament

Building Tomorrow’s Industry and Land Armament

Speech by the French Minister of Defence, Michèle Alliot-Marie, at the Eurosatory opening ceremony. Paris, June 14th, 2004. Source: DICoD, Paris.

It is for me a great honour and a great pleasure to open, this year again, the renowned Eurosatory show.

Two years ago, I expounded for the first time the issues related to land armaments and defence industry in front of you. This took place in a context of serious difficulties. After years of severe crisis, the decline has now been curbed.

The interest showed by many defence ministers from and outside Europe in favour of Eurosatory, proves that we can be confident in the future and with the prospect of cooperation.

I would like to welcome you all, and in particular the numerous foreign delegations. The new dynamics and prospects are partly the result of France’s financial effort addressed in the 2003-2008 Defence Program Law.

 My ambition for France is a powerful and competitive industry, which must be capable of setting up strong European partnerships. It is the requirement for the emergence of a genuine European military industry and for our strategic autonomy. France’s political influence on the international stage is also related to them.

In two years, significant progress has been achieved.

Regarding these initial successes, we should now resolutely look towards the future. It is our responsibility to build tomorrow’s land armament industry.

  • 1. The recovery of our Defence policy started two years ago, especially in the land armament sector.

It relies on France’s financial efforts, addressed in the Defence Program Law. It relies on the restructuring plans which have been led for two years.

  • 1.1 Greater equipment availability .

The severe maintenance crisis which broke out in 1999-2000 is now behind us. The significant budgetary efforts, which have been decided by the President of the Republic and agreed by the Nation are now taking shape, even if the overall recovery can only be gradually achieved. The efforts helped to maintain 90% of the operational technical availability for outside operations and above all, to launch a real recovery of this availability in metropolitan France. Such a recovery was achieved thanks to our collective mobilization.

We have to pursue the effort together. I addressed the issue of the firms under the responsibility of my department, such as GIAT Industries, or DCN, SNPE and SNECMA, with the same concern for efficiency and competitiveness.

  • 1.2 For the first time, GIAT Industries can realistically consider that it will be able to recover with confidence.

In summer 2002, the economical situation of GIAT Industries required difficult but essential decisions. The Government then displayed its ambition to maintain a national land armaments industry. It was also a choice for Europe. In April 2003, breaking with the past, it thus was decided to launch GIAT’s restructuring. This program is hinged on an “industry contract”, concluded by the State as soon as march 2004 for the period of the Defence Program Law (2003-2008), and beyond. GIAT Industries’ change is now supported by a credible base of command and research funds. It also offers GIAT employees a better future. The Government decided to put the emphasis on the employees’ redeployment and the restructuring of GIAT industrial sites, while also supporting social dialogue within GIAT, which gives all the players greater responsibilities. GIAT Industries broke with the past and is now a forward-looking group. It is well-aware that it must get involved in French and European partnerships as soon as possible.

  • 1.3 The modernization of French forces will be boosted by new financing methods.

Sharing financing and risk-taking with manufacturers develops innovating financing procedures, which boost the modernization of our equipment. As you know, I expressed the will to implement these new tools as soon as we started working on the draft of the Defence Program Law. I drew up a first list of projects, which are progressing quickly:

  • Resources for the initial training of helicopter pilots,

  • Management and maintenance of estate vehicles,

  • Outsourcing of the management of Gendarmerie’s real estate.

I also asked the study of other issues relating to land armament. The acquisition of the multi-role land carrier could thus be made through a private-public financing process. The management of the Training Centre for Urban Combats could also be outsourced.

  • 2. We now have to build tomorrow’s industry and land armament. Several initiatives are currently conducted to meet such a requirement.

  • 2.1 I decided new structuring programs for the Army.

Here, at Eurosatory, you will have the opportunity to see the first prototype of the Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie (VBCI - Infantry Combat Armoured Vehicle). This prototype shows that the overall program has been reorganized and that it is now well-conducted.

I can also confirm the order of 72 CEASAR guns for the Army. The business negotiations being completed, the contract should be signed by autumn 2004.

As for the FELIN combat systems, a contract has already been signed. It will provide our infantry soldiers with high-tech equipments by 2006. France will be one of the first countries whose Army will be equipped with such advanced systems.

  • 2.2 I decided to launch new demonstrators in order to prepare our forces and industry for the “Networks war”.

A demonstrator is going to be built, in the field of the “air-land operational cocoon” (ALOC). With the “ALOC” demonstrator new technological capacities, essential to future land forces will be gained. It will be a unifying program since it will associate industrial groups of the land sector such as GIAT Industries with firms specialised in electronic systems such as Thales, SAGEM and EADS.

To be sure, the project will be open to European cooperation, with reference to the UCAV project, which is conducted by Dassault Aviation. In the UAV sector, I decided to launch a Euromale demonstrator project, open to a large European cooperation. The initiative should enable us to cover an operational and strategic need. In the future, it will allow to structure an autonomous European industrial offer under EADS conduct. EADS contributes to the project via the investment of its net assets, with the partnership of Thales and Dassault for the development. On this occasion, EADS and Dassault signed a founding agreement on UAVs MALE and UCAV, which prefigures the European industry for military reconnaissance and combat aircrafts. These projects add to the tactical UAVs programmes in which SAGEM already plays a key-role in Europe. European cooperation projects with prospective partners are already launched.

  • 2.3 We have the duty to build a European land armament industry.

It is ineluctable and essential to strengthen land armament in Europe, because of the risk of an industry collapse.

The strengthening must be activated soon.

Today the French industry can point out the numerous future plans supported by the Ministry of Defence in order to structure itself and encourage its European partners.

Thanks to its regained reliability, GIAT Industries can now initiate the necessary discussions for developing future French and European partnerships.

The European industry will only be competitive if a better and long-term coordination between national players is carried out. The European Procurement Agency (EPA) mission is to act in real terms on these subjects. It must serve a European armament market, for the benefit of our forces equipment. I told my counterparts that I was favouring such an agency, which should be officially established during the European Council on June 17th. We have “moved defence into the right direction” for two years, not only because defence is the “security asset” of French citizens, but also because it generates jobs, technological and industrial progress. The coming programmes in the field of land armament will allow us to buy the appropriate equipment for crisis management in the context of present and future strategy. France, like its partners, must be able to develop operational capabilities, well-suited for both its worldwide responsibilities and the stakes of European Defence.

The future of European Defence, as you know, goes through co-operation as far as armament is concerned. It gives industrial companies an unprecedented opportunity and is necessary in order to strengthen our industrial and technological basis. I shall conclude by wishing great success to this new Eurosatory show, before I begin the inaugural visit.

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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).