During her hearing by the Defense Committee of the National Assembly, Joëlle Barre, the Delegate General of Armaments, indicated that following the order for 5 P8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes from Boeing by Germany to replace some of its exhausted Orion P3Cs, France should re-evaluate its participation in the Franco-German Maritime Airborne Warfare System, or MAWS, which was supposed to allow the two countries to replace their maritime patrol aircraft. Atlantique 2 and Orion by 2035, based on cooperation between Airbus and Thales. And according to the site latribune.fr, the alternative chosen by Paris could be based on the new Falcon 10X long-range business aircraft currently in development at Dassault Aviation. These announcements, and the indiscretions collected by the always very well informed Michel Cabirol of latribune.fr, mark profound developments, both in the field of Franco-German cooperation in the defense industry, and in the future capabilities that the Navy will have with regard to its maritime patrol, as well as with regard to the role that could well play the future Falcon 10X within the French air and naval forces in the years to come. They also offer promising prospects in many fields, be they industrial, operational and political.
In the first place, this announcement by Joël Barre constitutes in many aspects a clear break with the French posture in its industrial cooperation with Germany on defense issues. Not only does Paris warn of its very likely withdrawal from the MAWS program in the short term, but it does so indirectly, precisely in the same way as that applied by Berlin about the acquisition of its P8A, of which the French authorities were informed through the press. This undoubtedly marks a certain form of exasperation and a perceptible deep annoyance on the part of the French authorities vis-à-vis Germany, both with regard to the MAWS program and the other programs undertaken. Thus, Jöel Barre hinted, during the same hearing, that France would certainly take the initiative to move forward alone in the Tiger 3 program relating to the modernization of Tiger combat helicopters, while Germany is continuing in this file to play the watch, and that it would have solicited, there too, Boeing and the American FMS for an offer relating to Apache AH-64E helicopters, and this even if, in these files, the wrongs are obviously shared and the perceptions disparate depending on whether one is German or French.
This Berlin-led strategy of fait accompli had already been felt around the MAST-F missile program in 2018, when Germany left the program to look to an Israeli solution through its EuroSpike joint venture. But this time, it seems that the cup is full for the French teams, who are obviously no longer willing to wait for German goodwill to advance on the various programs. As such, we can easily imagine that the next program to bear the brunt of these tensions will be Common Indirect Fire Support, or CIFS, shut down for many months, and which will quickly prove to be critical for the Army as part of its TITAN program for the modernization of its high intensity heavy artillery component. This dynamic which seems to be emerging, and which could well be amplified once Angela Merkel withdraws from the German political scene in September 2021, increasingly resembles that which caused the etiolation of the ambitious Lancaster House agreements of 2010 between Paris and London. , and it is necessary, from now on, to imagine as quickly as possible credible and effective alternatives to replace these cooperation programs which have constituted, for 4 years now, the guiding thread of the industrial defense strategy in the medium term for Paris.
The arrival of the Dassault Falcon 10X on the Patmar scene is precisely one of these alternatives. And what an alternative! Because with a range of over 13.000 km, a cruising speed greater than Mach 0.9, and a pressurized cabin 2,77 m wide and 19 rows, the device 33 meters long and as large, offers a platform of choice for long-duration missions as required by maritime patrol. Thus adorned, a Falcon 10X Patmar could reach a patrol area 3000 km away, either in the middle of the North Atlantic or in the Black Sea from Lorient, in just 3 hours, and ensure 5 hours of patrol in the area. Today, an Atlantic 2 would take 6 hours to reach this patrol area, and could hardly stay more than 2 hours on site, before returning to its base. Therefore, to maintain patmar permanence in the context of such a need, it would be necessary to have three times more Atlantic 2 than Falcon 10X.
Facing the Boeing P8A Poseidon, the current benchmark in maritime patrol if we believe the success of the device for export, the 10X would be far from pale. Admittedly, the device is smaller, and its hold will certainly carry less weaponry, drones and sonobuoys than the Poseidon. On the other hand, the Falcon is faster, and has a range of 2000 km greater than that of the American aircraft. In addition, where the P8A, derived from the Boeing 737-800, is above all a transformed airliner, the Falcon 10X, like all Dassault Falcons, is a business jet that does not deny a certain proximity to the development. of fighter jets of its designer. If it respects the DNA of its processors like the Falcon 10, the Falcon 50 or the Falcon 200, all aircraft in service in the French Navy, it will offer maneuverability and aeronautical performance beyond that of an airliner, allowing it in particular to conduct very low-altitude flights when necessary, for example to try to detect a battery-powered diesel submarine using a magnetic anomaly detector, or to accurately launch a SAR chain (encapsulated inflatable raft for sea rescue) near a sinking ship.
In short, you will understand, the former maritime patrol pilot that I am has eyes that shine at the idea that such a device can join the air fleet of the French Navy. But beyond the Patmar mission, the Falcon 10X could well prove to be a platform of choice for many air missions requiring aircraft of this size. We are thinking in particular of the replacement of the E-3C Sentry advanced aerial watch planes which will reach their age limit within ten years in the Air Force, and which will need to be replaced. The Falcon 10X could therefore like the Bombardier Global Express 6000 for Saab's Global Eye program, constitute the preferred solution for integrating French on-board electronics, and thus complement the air defense solution, both nationally and during international competitions. Other uses, such as the implementation of airborne drones of the Remote Carrier type, or the forward control of these same drones in a combat zone, as well as electronic intelligence missions or forward airborne command post, would naturally find their place in the national air inventory.
Finally, the Falcon 10X has a weight advantage over a solution based on the conversion of an A321Neo for example, or even against the B737-800 of the P8A Poseidon: its unit price of only $ 75m, $ 10m less than the base price of the 737, and $ 30m less than the A321Neo. As long as the French order for its maritime patrol is a minimum structured and ambitious, it would therefore be possible to produce devices at a very competitive unit price, enough to attract other partners, especially if it embeds some engagement capacities. cooperative progress with Rafale aircraft from the same manufacturer, also used by the French Navy, and which today cooperate daily with the Atlantique 2.
It remains to be seen, from now on, whether the French authorities will confirm their innuendo, and, if so, what will be the ambitions and the timetable of the alternative programs that will be proposed. It will thus have been noted that during the hearings of the parliamentary defense committees in recent weeks, many subjects pointing to the failures and incapacities of the French armies were put forward by the deputies, senators and heads of state. -Major. Drones, frigates, corvettes, electronic warfare planes ... all these subjects must indeed hold the attention of the legislator. But beyond a certain point, the stacking of patches no longer makes it possible to build a coherent and efficient armed force which, for that, needs visibility, time, resources and confidence in ambitions. More than ever, and beyond the indisputable benefits that the execution of the 2019-2025 LPM will have brought to date, it is becoming urgent not only to redefine the ambitions and objectives of the French armies in the face of global security developments, but also to change the paradigms which drive the defense effort today, so as to be able to effectively give the armies and defense manufacturers the means and the confidence necessary to meet these new challenges.