Does the Euro-fundamentalism of the Ministry of the Armed Forces harm the equipment capacities of the Armies?

For nearly a decade, the Ministry of Defense, which has become the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and the Directorate General of Armaments which oversees all industrial programs for the Armies, have almost systematically given preference to a European vision of defense programs. . Thus, during his last hearing, the General Delegate for Armaments, Joel Barre, ruled out the possibility of giving preference to Dassault Aviation's Falcon X for the replacement of the Atlantic 2 of Maritime Patrol, if the MAWS program were to be done without Germany (which comes from order 5 American P-8A Poseidon to replace its oldest P-3Cs), arguing that there are other solutions “in Europe” for this type of aircraft.

Joël Barre's response is characteristic of the state of mind that reigns today among the ruling elites who drive defense programs. Despite the many setbacks recorded in the field of European defense cooperation, these authorities continue to systematically give priority to a vision of European cooperation programs, even if it means damaging the national defense industrial fabric, starting its role as pilot for French research, and degrading economic, social and budget for defense industrial investment, the very one that can constitute the lung for increasing defense investment without having to finance itself through debt or additional taxes.

Very questionable justifications

To justify the European tropism followed by Paris for almost all of its defense programs launched since the start of 2010, many arguments have been put forward, whether they are economic, technological or of critical industrial mass. However, all of these arguments, without exception, do not support a methodical and objective analysis. Thus, the argument put forward concerning the sharing of costs has, on numerous occasions, been denounced in particular by the Court of Auditors, through a posteriori analyzes of the programs. For example, the FREMM program, presented as a driving force for Franco-Italian cooperation, ultimately only allowed 15% of French and Italian vessels to be pooled, due to the differing expectations of the two countries. According to the CdC, the program would have cost exactly the same amount if it had been piloted entirely from France (for French ships). Likewise, we can see that the Eurofighter Typhoon program bringing together Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, will have cost more than double in terms of R&D compared to the Rafale program led by France. only, and that the plane itself, yet at best on a par with the French fighter, costs 20% more to purchase than the latter. And what about the costs and delays observed around programs like Euromale, NH90 and A400M? In reality, most often, the constraints linked to cooperation generate additional costs neutralizing the distribution of investments between the participants.

The French FREMMs of the Aquitaine and Alsace class and their Italian counterparts in the Bergamini class share only 15% of common components.

Another argument frequently put forward is technological. Of all, this is the most questionable, because the French defense industry (still) has the capacity to design and manufacture the vast majority of its own components and equipment. The growing dependence on European components results not from an absence of technological know-how, but from political choices, intended to give guarantees to the European partners of France. This is how Paris favored the acquisition of Volcano tanker-tankers designed by Fincantieri, even though the French shipyards naturally had the know-how for such an achievement. This order was a strong political act in the context of the naval rapprochement between France and Italy, a rapprochement which finally came to an end, but which allowed France to spend € 1 billion, or the equivalent of 25.000 annual jobs, in the Italian industry, without any political or industrial return (on the contrary, Fincantieri having repeatedly undermined French negotiations with some of its clients).

The last argument put forward is that of industrial critical mass, according to which mass production would allow unit costs to be reduced and the maintenance and development of equipment to be simplified. It is true that this argument has had the value of industrial dogma for the past 3 decades. Corn the recent work of Will Roper within the framework of the American NGAD program showed that this was not the case, and that the constraints linked to large series, particularly in terms of repeated development, neutralized the expected benefits of this approach. Here again, the typical example is the Rafale program, which ultimately evolves better than the Typhoon, at a lower cost, even though until recently, its installed fleet was almost 3 times lower than that of the European aircraft. , undermining this paradigm. It is certainly preferable to be able to distribute R&D investments over a greater number of equipment produced, but here again, the constraints imposed by cooperation generate additional costs such that they neutralize the expected benefits of large series.

Partners who do not share the same vision

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