Are the French Armies ready for "High Intensity"?

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the need to have a military force designed for major engagements against an adversary with the same advanced military capabilities, gradually withered away, the very notion of conflict between large nations miltaries having largely diminished. In France, as in many European countries, the principle of “benefits of peace” then appeared, making it possible to reduce the size of the armies in proportion to the reduction in the threat. Little by little, the French armies evolved towards a military force based on two principles, nuclear deterrence to neutralize major threats, and a global expeditionary force to carry out external operations, including in autonomy, in the face of potential adversaries not having the capacity to engage in a "high intensity" conflict, that is to say calling on all armaments heavy and modern technologies.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, however, several countries in the world, such as Russia and China, have gradually acquired a major military power capable, precisely, of carrying out this type of engagement. Thus, the Russian armed forces went from 15 combat brigades to more than 65 in less than 10 years, receiving in the process more than 1500 modernized heavy combat tanks and 450 modern combat aircraft over the same period. China, for its part, has acquired a strong air power of more than 800 modern fighters, and a fleet of 350 warships, including 140 large combat vessels. In addition, whether it is Ukraine, Syria, Taiwan or the South China Sea, the subjects of tension with these countries continue to grow, and to fester, causing the reappearance of the specter of “High Intensity” engagement for Western armies, including French armies, whether in coalition and autonomously.

The Russian armed forces now line up almost 3000 heavy tanks, of which more than 1800 are modernized versions of the T72, T80 and T90, with significantly increased engagement capabilities.

In fact, for the past two years, High Intensity has entered the language of communication in the French Armies, and there is now hardly a week without a qualified "high intensity" exercise taking place. Even the military parade of July 14, 2021 was under this theme, to show that the French armies were beautiful and well prepared for this eventuality. But is this really the case? Indeed, according to many analysts, the French armies suffer from numerous shortcomings which could significantly affect their ability to support such a commitment, whether due to a capability and technological gap, or due to of an overly constrained format that does not allow the effects of a conflict of this type to be absorbed. As is often the case, the reality is much more nuanced, and a definite answer to such a question would be incomplete.


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