Written by Lucrezia Sala
As a result of the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, confirmed that France is now at the “dispute alert” level, which is only followed by a military confrontation. For this reason, during a meeting with defence manufacturers on September 6th, Lecornu highlighted the importance of simplifying the French military’s procurement and producing more and faster. This was also highlighted by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who in June wanted to replace the 2019-2026 Military Program Law (MPL) with a new one for 2024-2030, as the former was deemed inadequate to fit the French military requirements in times of war in Europe.
The new approach the French intend to implement consists of four main points. The first focuses on the simplification of procurement requests, which would aim at simpler production capacities and less sophisticated designs. The second point would involve establishing a joint venture between French procurement agency Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) and manufacturers, developing a method to decrease the time of capacities’ production whilst maintaining high production standards and innovation. Thirdly, a relocation agenda towards France and the wider European Union (EU) would be realized to protect the French know-how. There is no room for insecure foreign dependency, and Lecornu made this clear. Lastly, as France is preparing for a hypothetical long-term conflict in Europe, it is enhancing its stocks of ammunition. Similarly, the Norwegian defence minister, Bjørn Arild Gram, has announced that his country will do the same shortly.
As France is supplying weaponry to Ukraine since the beginning of the war, the new French modus operandi of producing more and better perfectly fits this position. It is not surprising that the République will prioritize the production of specific materials. Following the supply of 18 Caesar guns to Ukraine, these will be manufactured in 12 months instead of 24. The same applies to 155mm artillery shells, which will be fabricated in 3 months instead of 9. At the moment of writing, France is finalizing the shipment of other 6 to 12 Caesar guns to Kyiv, which were originally destined for Denmark.
Whilst France is planning to streamline and simplify arms, and produce more and faster, it is also continuing to increase its spending on defence for the 6th consecutive year. During the last week of September, a total of €43.9 billion were assigned to the 2023 defence budget proposal, of which €2 billion will likely be spent on munitions and the new generation Missile d’Interception de Combat et d’Auto-défense (MICA) air-to-air missile. Additionally, in December 2021, the DGA allocated €600 million to a 4-years development program for the new generation Caesar NG. It is imperative to note that the surge in defence expenditure is vital for the creation of a stronger Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DTIB), a necessary condition for the broader objective of strategic autonomy, that is both on the French and EU agendas.
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