The French Navy will lose 25% of its surface combatants by 2030

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The Chief of Staff of the Navy, Admiral Prazuck, presented the “MERCATOR” plan. With its 4 pillars, and its superlatives in each paragraph, this plan has nothing to envy of those which abound in large companies today. You would almost expect to see the presentation of the next fashionable gadget on the last page...

As you will have understood, beneath its very attractive trappings, the “MERCATOR” plan is nothing other than a nice cover-up to hide the misery that the French Navy will have to face.

Indeed, in a careful presentation of the figures between 2018 and 2030, we understand that the number of “frigates of 1errank" will increase from 17 today to 15. Until now, these 15 frigates were to replace the ships of equivalent power which were the Suffren (2), Tourvilles (3), Georges Leygue (7) and Cassard (2 ) . The temporary classification of the 5 stealthy light frigates in 1errank had the sole purpose of, supposedly, respecting the format of 15 buildings of 1errank of the 2013 White Paper, the frigates becoming frigates of 2ndrank once the last FTI delivered in 2018. 

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However, in the 2030 format presented, there is no longer any question of frigates of 2ndrank. The concept has simply disappeared, implying that the 5 FLF will not be replaced. We will therefore go from 20 high seas frigates (15 to 1errank and 5 of 2ndrank) to 15 regattas from 1errank, i.e. a 25% drop in the Marine Nationale's action capabilities in this area.

The case of the avisos, reclassified offshore patrol vessels, is just as critical. Initially, the French Navy had 17 of these small combat ships, equipped for anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. France will cede 6 of these vessels to Turkey in 2000, and will reclassify the remaining vessels as “Patrouilleurs Hauturiers” in 2011, classifying them at the level of P400 patrol vessels. With this reclassification, the missions of the remaining 10 A69s had to be entrusted to the 8 FREMM AVT which made up part of the 17 FREMM initially ordered. But when the FREMM AVTs were canceled, the avisos did not regain their combat ship status. In 2018, and even more so in 2030, the concept of aviso, or corvette, has completely disappeared from the plans of the French Navy. 

We see in these two examples the capacity drift as it has worked for 40 years for the French Navy, using requalifications and eliminations of reference to present things in a more positive way.

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Given the development of many navies around the world, and the risks this poses to French interests, reducing the size of the French Navy today is very worrying. By doing so, France is certainly not helping to provide the necessary impetus for Defense Europe to emerge and overcome current obstacles. In other words, it only reinforces our subornation to American protection.

Finally, with the announced format, the French Navy will only be able to order one surface ship per year from Naval Group, and one submarine every 4 years. This format will not make it possible to maintain activity, nor to support exports, in the context of international competition which is coming. 

It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to consider the plan presented as good news, or simply as going in the right direction. 

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Above all, the “savings” expected by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and Bercy, will be very far from reality. Because the reduction in state orders will lead to a profound contraction of the market, probably a shift towards Italy of this know-how and industrial resources. This represents the loss of 10 to 15.000 direct industrial jobs, for Naval Group, Thales and MBDA, 5000 linked to the loss of export markets, 15.000 subcontracting jobs and 15.000 induced jobs, i.e. a total of 40 to 45.000 jobs destroyed, representing €2,5 billion per year in uncollected tax and social revenue, the same as what it would cost to maintain the fleet in its 1995 format, a format which would be far from excessive considering recent geopolitical developments. The State will therefore lose €2,5 billion per year (and €1,5 billion in social revenue which will widen the deficits), to save €2,5 billion on the equipment budget of the National Navy...

It is necessary to review in detail the budgetary planning paradigms of Defense, for the Navy as for the other armies, and to stop this management by expenditure which destroys the strategic autonomy and the military power of France as of the Europe on the international stage.

To explore the subject in more depth, article in French with link to the “Mercator” plan

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