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Technological Progress also Demands a Revolution in Thinking


Technological Progress also Demands a Revolution in Thinking


Eurosatory show – opening address by Mrs Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defence, at Villepinte, June 12, 2006. Source: DICoD, Paris

Ladies and gentlemen members of the Parliament,

Mrs Mayor,

Messrs chiefs of staff,

Mr General Delegate for armament,

Mr Chairman of the GICAT,

Ladies and gentlemen,

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. 

  • This year, Eurosatory sets forth three priorities.

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 defence devices.

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).

  • The recovery of our armed forces has begun.

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 expected shortly. 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 commitment. 

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.

  • Our aim is to field the Army with two digitized brigades before the summer of 2009.

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 dynamics.

  • 2. In order to support our forces’ modernization dynamics, France needs a successful, competitive industry worldwide.

Over 10,000 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.

  • For all these reasons, I have wanted Defence to take its responsibilities as a major economic actor in France.

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 developed.


The company is now ready to consider new European partnerships.


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 be.


I am strongly in favour of such talks among European manufacturers. We must tackle these issues openly, without prior conceptions or rejection.


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 for SMEs. 


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 national programmes.

  • France must not be ashamed of its current results.

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 2006.


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 items. 


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.

  • 3. We must now build a European land armament industry to strengthen and complement the unstoppable advance of the ESDP.

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 challenges.  


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 roadmap.  


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.

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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).