The Operational Buffer, an alternative to strengthen the Armies and the Defense Industry

Faced with the rapid upheavals affecting the geostrategic balances in the world, the French armies, like the national defense industry, face a complementary problem but without an obvious solution. Indeed, the armies keep repeating, more and more audibly, that they lack the means, and in particular heavy resources and manpower, to carry out their missions in a context where high intensity commitments could once again become possible, or even become the norm. At the same time, the French Defense industrial and technological base, or BITD, if it now has relatively strong activity, clearly lacks medium-term visibility, but also production volume, to be able to impose its equipment during competitions on the international scene. The complementarity of needs is therefore obvious, but cannot take place today because of the budgetary limitations imposed by the state of the country's public finances, largely handicapped by the COVID crisis.

At the same time, it is becoming increasingly evident that used military equipment, and in particular recent second-hand equipment with real military potential in the medium and long term, is enjoying increasing success with many countries wishing to rapidly increase their capabilities. military personnel in the face of rapidly evolving threats. These requests also affect the field of combat aircraft, as was the case for the acquisition by Greece of 18 Rafale including 12 used with a first delivery yesterday to Istres, as well as ships, as in the case of the sale of the 2 French FREMM frigates to Morocco and Egypt, followed by two FREMM frigates taken from the inventory of the Italian Navy for Cairo. Under these conditions, it appears relevant to consider a complementary model to the traditional sale of defense equipment, simultaneously making it possible to meet this export need, to increase the immediate operational capacities of the Armies, and to increase the activity of the defense industries, without impacting public finances, the Operational Buffer.

The two FREMMs exported by France to Egypt and Morocco were taken from production intended for the French Navy, resulting in a delay in delivery and the obligation to extend the operational life of certain French ships.

Its principle is relatively simple, although innovative. The French Armies would receive a certain number of major supernumerary equipment vis-à-vis the format defined by the military programming, which they could use in an operational manner while respecting certain limitations, within the framework of a leasing contract carried by a a company in Public-Private Partnership specially created for this purpose. At the same time, this equipment will be offered on the international market either through direct acquisition or in the form of leasing, with much shorter implementation times than in the context of on-demand manufacturing. Obviously, the older the equipment, the more attractive the price will be. The transfer of equipment to an export customer would entail its replacement, either identically or in incremental form, so that the operational buffer, made up of surplus equipment in the armed forces, would remain constant.

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