In recent years, the United States has often stolen from France's nose and beard major defense contracts, sometimes even pushing the customer to choose another service provider, as long as the latter was not French. . Whether they are Polish Caracal helicopters, Belgian or Swiss F-35s, Qatari corvettes, or very recently, Australian submarines, successive American administrations have shown a real desire to prevent France from accessing to certain international markets, going so far as to carry out massive operations to eject Paris, such as in Greece about frigates and the Rafale order. For some observers, this is only a business strategy, conveniently summed up by a "business is business" which would justify the aggressiveness shown by the United States against France.
However, by observing the strategies employed, and the determination shown by the United States in these cases, we understand that the stakes go far beyond the mere commercial criteria, to extend to a real strategy of control of foreign policies and Defense of the Western sphere, especially in Europe, an area in which France and its positions inherited from Gaullism appear to be an obstacle, even a threat, for the United States. In this article, we will see why and how Washington articulates this strategy, and we will study the solutions available to France to try to resist it.
A unique industry in the West
Outside the United States, the French defense industry is unique in the West, insofar as it is the only one capable of designing and manufacturing all the defense systems of a modern armed force, without depending, in several critical areas of American materials. With the exception of some specific equipment, such as the E-2C Hawkeye on-board watch planes, or the catapults fitted to the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, French industry is indeed capable of producing all of the necessary equipment. to its armed forces, ranging from armor to combat aircraft, submarines to helicopters, missiles, radars, and space systems. It is also, with Great Britain, the only European country to have its own nuclear deterrent force, based on 4 nuclear submarines launching missiles equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles, and on two squadrons of Rafale equipped with airborne supersonic nuclear missiles.
Not only is it autonomous in this area, but its equipment matches and sometimes even surpasses their American counterparts, while being, more often than not, more economical to purchase as to use at the same or better performance. Thus, a Suffren-class nuclear attack submarine is acquired for just over € 1 billion by the French state, where the US Navy pays $ 3,5 billion for a Virginia, admittedly better armed in cruise missiles, but no more efficient than the French submarine in its primary function of hunter-killer, hunting submarines and enemy ships. The same goes for the Rafale combat aircraft, which surpasses the F-35 in many areas (maneuverability, range, low-altitude penetration, etc.) and which, in its F4 version, will see its performance in data fusion to catch up with those of the American plane, for a cost of ownership half less.
To achieve this, and in view of the French economic and demographic limits, it is essential for Paris to rely on important export markets, national demand not being sufficient to fuel such industrial exhaustiveness. Consequently, 40% of the annual turnover recorded by the French Industrial Technological and Defense Base, or BITD, is linked to defense equipment exports, representing 80.000 direct jobs and 120.000 indirect and induced jobs in the country, and conditions the flexibility of this industry to evolve and prosper. Indeed, and like the objectives of the US CAATSA legislation designed to deprive Moscow of export earnings from its defense industry in order to hamper its own ability to sustain full strategic autonomy, Washington seems to be trying to to deprive Paris of its export markets, for the same purpose, but with less obvious methods.
Targeted, repeated and devastating attacks
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