Progress also Demands a
Revolution in Thinking
show – opening address by
French Minister of Defence,
June 12, 2006.
Source: DICoD, Paris
Ladies and gentlemen members of the Parliament,
Messrs chiefs of staff,
Mr General Delegate for armament,
Mr Chairman of the GICAT,
It is my pleasure and honour to open Eurosatory show for the
third time… which might be a record! 2002 was my first opportunity to make a public speech on
issues of armament and industry.
Eurosatory 2004 was distinguished by several major decisions:
the commitment to reorganize GIAT, the launch of several initiatives to prepare
the future, including the BOA (airland operational bubble) demonstrator, and a
thorough work on drones, especially the MALE range.
In 2006, we draw the first benefits of our action: this must
inspire us to go further.
My first thanks go to the GICAT and especially to Luc
Vigneron. Thanks to your high standard welcome and your strong mobilization,
this show is increasingly successful, as the figures prove.
The first, which you just mentioned, is the strong belief
that there may be no other security but a global security.
The second is the unquestionable European dimension of our
The third is innovation, a condition of our technological
excellence and of our competitiveness in the future.
These priorities have been my basis to start off the recovery
of our defence device, more than four years ago. I now rely upon them to
prepare our future.
Our armies’ modernization efforts are giving concrete
results, and must be continued (1). At the same time, we have given new impetus
to the French land armament industry (2). We must now increase our efforts on
the European dimension of our action (3).
A) The modernization of our equipment has undergone steady
and steadfast progress since 2002.
Long-awaited, essential equipment is now fielded to our
land forces. Other is
Programmes which were only mere considerations four years
ago are now firmly engaged and going as planned. System FELIN
is undergoing its industrial qualification stage, to be fielded in 2008.
The first deliveries of the VBCI, which were escheat in as
I took up my duties, are planned for 2008.
The small protected vehicle (PVP) will be the next material
to be fielded to our forces. Entrusted to Auverland-Panhard, it provides a
good opportunity to salute the role played by the SMEs, which are especially
present and efficient in your fields.
We have to keep up this modernization effort: this is my
strong message to all future candidates to French electoral elections.
Confronted to threats to our security, we must not believe
that our forces may be recovered, that the reforms which were started will be
continued and that France’s rank in Europe and worldwide will be kept if we do
not keep up with our budget efforts in terms of Defence.
These last four years, not only have we responded to capacity
deficits consequent to the prior governments’ budgetary weakness, but we also
got organized to prepare our forces for the technological evolution of military
B) The digitization of our defence device is already an
operational reality; it also stands as one of tomorrow’s priorities.
And yet, on the ground, it already is a reality. Modern information systems are being implemented, which are
crucial for today’s conflicts, whatever their intensity. These systems
have been deployed in Cote d’Ivoire and Afghanistan.
This technological progress also demands a revolution in
thinking. It requires an increasingly integrated, joint approach,
involving both military and engineers. This intellectual and psychological
revolution is now well under way.
The General Chief of Staff and the General Delegate for
Armament are the co-pilots of our equipment programme: they are competent to put
forth sensible arbitration, with a joint prospect.
The convergence of the Air Force and the artilleries’
information and command systems, for that matter, is absolutely exemplary.
Finally, we need a long-lasting industrial revolution in
information systems. In that crucial field, we have a lot to learn from civil
industry. We have already set about a major convergence of all technical
bases common to all systems.
The new impetus given to the technological and industrial
partnership between Thales and Alcatel is an example of what to do. Getting ready for the future is essential: two years ago, I
announced the demonstrator project of the future BOA (Airland Operational
Bubble): it has now become a reality.
Work on the MALE drones – a strategic part of future systems
– carries on. I expect proposals from the manufacturers whom, I know, are
committed. These proposals, I hope, will enable us to carry on in a European
companies, including many SMEs, now work for defence. This
amounts to a total manpower of over 2 million employees. Defence hired over
32,000 people last year, including thousands non-qualified young people to whom
we have given a qualification, a job, and a hope.
A) We must rely on a modernized land armament industry.
GIAT Industries has taken decisive steps. Its future
is now certain.
Accounts have been straightened as early as in 2005, with
satisfactory prospects until the delivery of the VBCI, which, along with the
artillery system CAESAR, represents the company’s future market. The State stood firm to its commitments, and will keep on
doing so: before this year is over, GIAT should get a new order for high calibre
ammunition, within a secure and open contract framework. GIAT is
henceforth an industrial device fitted to the reality of markets and trades.
The share of executives and technicians in the company in
2005 has reached 67% of the manpower.
The R&D efforts have been increased; they now amount to 15%
of the turnover. An equipment maintenance and exploitation activity has been
The company is now ready to consider new European
The R&T agreement with Krauss Maffei on median armoured
vehicles is an encouraging first step. It may now be considered as technological
initiative to which France and Germany should bring a balanced support, if needs
I am strongly in favour of such talks among European
manufacturers. We must tackle these issues openly, without prior conceptions or
Beyond GIAT, I want to emphasize the fact that all companies
have taken advantage of the legibility provided by the LPM. This instrument, as
well as the State’s yearly loyalty to its financial commitments enables
companies – and especially SMEs– to invest. Furthermore, and exceptionally, the Minister of Defence has
made bank agreements so as to limit the possible prejudice caused by payment
delays to the suppliers’ accounting constraints. This is most important
B) Our French land armament industry is included in a world
market: export must be a priority of our collective action.
Our armament exports are an essential compound of our
country’s defence and foreign policies. They are crucial for the maintenance of the defence
industrial and technological basis, and are the natural continuation of our
Its export activity amounts to 10 to 15% of the world
armament market – about 4 billion euros a year. I have good reasons to hope that we will top this average in
We have achieved major successes: TIGRE or NH90 helicopter
contracts and sales of observation satellites have strengthened France’s seat in
the most strategic fields. We can also be proud of the first success of GIAT Industries’
CAESAR artillery system, which occurred a few months after France had ordered 72
I know that this equipment is likely to conquer a sizeable
part of the world market. I am sure of the successes to come in the field of new
armoured vehicles and tactical and ground-to-air missiles.
It is necessary that we all – public actors, manufacturers,
each one in its place – mobilize on export. Our common efforts must
enable to conquer new markets. Conquering these markets is
also a political action of trust with our partners.
I have already engaged in thinking and proposals in the
framework of the Defence-Industry Council (Conseil Défense-Industrie) which has
given the first leads of progress in that field.
I expect today, from the mission entrusted to deputy Fromion,
that the best possible adequacy of our offer and organization to the new deal in
terms of buyers and competitors be put forth.
A) Our armed forces’ action is involved within the framework
of of a European Security and Defence Policy which is now a daily reality.
I will not go over that topic again, since most of you are
familiar with it.
European defence has come a long way since several years. It
has belied those pessimistic people who considered that project utopian.
In 2002, who would have foretold that four years later, the
European Union would be about to launch its second autonomous operation in
Africa, under German command in Congo?
Who would have foretold that Bosnia – and soon the Balkans as
a whole – would be placed under the responsibility of Europe of Defence?
That the EU
would have tactical task forces dedicated to high readiness, as well as a
European Gendarmerie Force?
In the field of armament and technologies, the European
Defence Agency was set up within only a few months.
It must now be a force of proposition. Let me remind my deep conviction: we will not resist
international competition without a technological advance, which we will not
gain until we have a European policy of armament industry.
B) Manufacturers must increase their organization at the
European level, supported by their States-clients, in order to meet tomorrow’s
In the field of military helicopters, France will engage a
major effort for the preparation of the future. Dedicated R&T funds will be multiplied by four. A
definition study will be notified this year by the DGA.
This effort must come within the scope of a European
perspective where Eurocopter partner nations play a full part in the maintenance
and development of its technological skills. I want to speed up exchanges with our partners on that
matter, Germany and Spain especially, in order to define a common ambitious R&T
A year ago at the Bourget Paris air show, I called for a
unification of European skills around the technological preparation of a new
generation of land combat missiles. Exchanges with our main partners have, since then,
corroborated the convergence of needs in that field for 2015.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom already have an
important technological gain, which was acquired from past developments. We are involved today in very advanced discussions with our
British and Swedish partners to set about a concrete initiative which other
partners could join when the time has come.
In this respect, let me greet the incorporation of the German
firm LFK within MBDA, and I call for all actors in this sector to keep up with
this consolidation effort. Considering our armies’ requirements and our budget
constraints, it indeed appears as a necessity!
As you can see, we have come a long way in four years.
This is the result of a financial mobilization. But it is also, first and foremost, the result of a political
mobilisation. It is the realization of our ambition: an increasingly joint
and European defence, looking towards industrial innovation and performance. We
must keep up with our effort. It would be irresponsible of us to stop, now that
we have started off so well!
Let us not be impressed by the pessimistic comments we
sometimes hear. France has a mighty industrial tool, borne by skilled, committed
and imaginative men and women. Let us be proud of our assets! Let us keep on developing them, to silence, at last, those
who want to turn self-abasement into a national sport.
Thus will France be able to tackle the future, with dynamism
and a strong impulse.