What will be the priorities of the next French Military Programming Law?

Until the beginning of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the French executive had one watchword and only one concerning the conduct of the defense effort: All the Military Programming Law 2019-2025, but that the LPM 2019 -2025. Designed on the basis of the 2017 Strategic Review, itself strongly constrained by the 2013 White Paper, the 2019-2025 LPM aimed to repair the significant damage resulting from two decades of under-investment in the French armies, even though the operational pressure remained very high. It is clear that in 5 years, the situation of the armies has greatly improved, with an annual budget increased by €8,5 billion, i.e. more than 25%, several respected critical programs such as SCORPION for the Army, the renewal of frigates and submarines for the French Navy, or the arrival of A330M Phoenix tanker aircraft and A400M transport aircraft for the Air and Space Force. However, this LPM remained inspired by a doctrine based on the association of a two-component deterrence, an expeditionary force that can be deployed quickly for External Operations, and a reduced conventional power only capable of intervening in coalition. The war in Ukraine, but also the growing tensions in the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, have now made this defensive approach, if not obsolete, at least unsuited to the challenges that the French armies will have to respond to in the months and years to come.

Si defense issues were completely ignored in public debate during presidential and legislative campaigns, international news, and the relative pressure posed by all of France's European neighbors, all of whom announced a major effort to increase defense investments, led the newly re-elected President Macron to move froman ambition to revise the LPM in progress, at the announcement of a new LPM which could be launched before the end of the current one, i.e. as early as 2023. But what will be the priorities of this new Military Programming Law, which will be part of a particularly tense international and European geopolitical context, with the significant increase in the risk of conflict, including on national soil, whether metropolitan or overseas, the return of the large-scale nuclear threat, and European cooperation programs that are moribund, not to say very threatened? In this article, we will study the main programs that could represent the spearhead of this new LPM, according to two hypotheses, one conservative and probable, the other optimized for the effectiveness of the armies, the export competitiveness of the defense industry and therefore medium- and long-term budgetary sustainability.

Ground forces

Of the 3 French armies, the Army was the one that paid the heaviest price for the professionalization of the forces, seeing its operational format divided by almost 3 in 30 years, and losing, for the occasion, most of its capabilities. dedicated to high intensity. The new LPM will therefore undoubtedly relate to a rapid reconstruction of these capacities, and towards an increase in staff and equipment.

Probable hypothesis

If the SCORPION program, with the VBMR Griffon and Serval armored vehicles, the EBRC Jaguar reconnaissance vehicles, and the modernization of 200 Leclerc tanks allows the Army to significantly strengthen its maneuver capabilities, including in a context of high intensity, it suffers from a flagrant lack of firepower, particularly in the field of heavy artillery, as well as self-protection capabilities against air and drone threats. Furthermore, even modernized Leclercs, as well as VBCI infantry fighting vehicles, lack the defensive capabilities for such an engagement. Finally, it appears essential to increase the operational personnel available to the Army, in order to be able to increase the forces that can be projected within the framework of NATO.

In fact, it is very likely that the new LPM will address these aspects, while preserving the pursuit of SCORPION. We can therefore expect a significant increase in the Army's CAESAR system, probably 60 to 80 pieces so as to have 2 to 3 additional artillery regiments, as well as the acquisition, off the shelf or in rapid design, very long-range artillery capabilities, especially since the Franco-German CIFS program now seems, if not abandoned, in any case postponed to dates incompatible with the immediate operational pressure. It is also very likely that a program to equip ground units with short-range anti-aircraft, anti-drone and anti-cruise missile defense capabilities will be launched in the short term. To deal with the reality of the anti-tank threat during high-intensity engagements, it can be expected that the modernization program for Leclerc tanks already underway, but also the one to come concerning the modernization of VBCIs, will integrate Hard-Kill type self-protection. Finally, if the size of the professional forces will without any doubt be increased, with a Land Operational Force brought to 85.000 or 90.000 men, it is above all likely that a major effort will be made vis-à-vis the Operational Reserve, with the objective of forming more autonomous reserve units like the 24th infantry regiment.

Alternative hypothesis

The fact remains that even relying on all of these programs, which would undoubtedly provide significant operational added value to the Army, it appears that the bulk of the French mechanized forces would use relatively light armored vehicles on wheels, which in fact offer little development potential without threatening their mobility beyond 24 tonnes for 6×6 vehicles such as the Griffon, CAESAR and Jaguar, or 32 tonnes for 8×8 armored vehicles for the VBCI. In fact, the French regiments will only have 200 tracked armored vehicles, the Leclerc tanks, in the near future. At the same time, it seems highly unlikely that the Franco-German heavy tank MGCS program can be accelerated, if at all it succeeds in overcoming the mounting obstacles in Franco-German industrial cooperation. It would therefore be relevant for the Army to develop a new family of tracked armored vehicles intended to fit between the light and medium armored vehicles of the SCOPRION program, and the heavy armored vehicles of the MGCS program, while strengthening the firepower and the effectiveness of the Leclercs in short supply.

the ASCALON cannon is proposed by Nexter to equip the MGCS, to the great displeasure of Rheinmetall

Such a program, which would therefore aim to develop a new generation tracked armored platform in the 40-50 ton range, would in particular make it possible to develop a medium tank tank destroyer that can be equipped with the new ASCALON gun developed by Nexter and the anti-tank missile Akeron, as well as a heavier, better protected and better armed infantry fighting vehicle than the VBCI. The armor could also represent a perfectly adapted platform to develop a self-propelled artillery system under armor, as well as a system of anti-aircraft protection at short range. The program would also make it possible to reduce the risks around the MGCS program, with less dependence on its schedule and on industrial arbitration for the sustainability of the know-how of the defense industrial base and its subcontracting chain, while increasing noticeably the opportunities for export and cooperation around this subject. Several countries, in fact, would undoubtedly be ready to board such a French initiative, in Europe such as Greece, but also in the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates.

Marine Nationale


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