Is the capability collapse of the French armies underway?

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For many years, the French armies faced a crucial dilemma: How much money they had did not allow the renewal and maintenance of the equipment fleet in accordance with their use. To compensate for this deficit, the general staffs had to resolve to undermine the potential of their forces, by overexploiting some of them (such as the Mirage 2000D, frigates and submarines, helicopters of all types), by cannibalizing the fleet (Tanks Leclerc, Tigres helicopters, C160..), or by accepting to use outdated equipmentand potentially dangerous for their operators (Gazelle and Puma helicopters, Alouette III, VAB, ERB90, C160, KC135, etc.)

The consequences of these decisions, although there were no other possible ones, have been revealed for several years, with a very significant collapse in capabilities, noticeable in all the armies.

The LPM 2019-2025 proposes, and this is a first in 20 years, a budgetary trajectory to return to a balanced situation by 2025. And in fact, if it is fully applied (which is not all acquired), the Armed Forces Budget in 2025, and in particular that dedicated to the renewal of major programs, will have reached sufficient levels to gradually renew the fleet over 30 years, and sufficient means to properly maintain this equipment.

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Unfortunately, this return to balance will only make it possible to overcome 20 years of deflation after around twenty years. Worse, during the first 4 years of the LPM, those related to the presidential mandate, the balance point will not be reached, and the operational deficit of the armies will, in fact, continue to widen.

In addition, this balance point is determined on the basis of the format from the 2013 White Paper. However, here again, this format is not consistent with the actual use made of the French armed forces today. Many categories of equipment, such as fighter planes, maneuvering and combat helicopters, surface combat ships, Caesar cannons to name but a few, will continue to be very clearly underutilized. capabilities in view of the operational needs of the forces. For the Air Force's fighter component alone, the format of 185 fighters defined by the White Paper reveals a deficit of 90 devicesto maintain current operational pressure. 

This phenomenon risks being greatly accentuatedwith increasing tensions in the East with Russia, friction with China, and the possible emergence of a Sunni alliance in the Middle East.

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Apart from a revision of the LPM and the reference documents, already covered in this article, it would be possible to accelerate and terminate urgent programs by jointly using the program companies, carrying the financing, and the mechanisms of Defense with Positive Valuation, to very significantly limit its budgetary weight, reducing it to almost negligible amounts. As part of the HIL program, whose first deliveries in 2028 pose numerous problems for the 3 armies, an approach of this type would make it possible to finance and deliver all the devices outside of LPM planning while generating a budgetary bonus of almost €800 million.

Likewise, rather than double crewing the French frigates while reducing the size of the surface fleet, it would be possible to bring the number offrigates of 1errank at 24, and to reconstitute a fleet of corvettes of 12 examples, with a budgetary residual again positive, still outside the budgetary planning of the LPM. The methodology presented in these 3 examples can be applied to many areas, ranging from self-propelled guns to Rafaleelectronic warfare, in a logic of reconstitution of the operational reserves of the forces.

While the very application of the LPM is not guaranteed given economic indicators, and a rapidly deteriorating international situation, and armed forces lacking capabilities, dogmatic resistance to economic innovation is probably not the best posture to ensure the security of the country and its fellow citizens.

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