The series of articles devoted to the 2023 Military Programming Law is coming to an end. We have, until now, addressed numerous subjects, whether strategic such as the future of the global army format inherited from General de Gaulle, or purely technical subjects, such as the opportunity to provide the National Navy with conventionally powered sailors alongside its SSNs. If these articles made it possible to present in a relatively exhaustive manner the issues but also the constraints which will apply to this LPM, the last two articles which will conclude this series, deal, for their part, with potential Quickwin, capacity on the one hand, technological on the other, likely to provide armies with significant operational benefits in terms of high-intensity engagement, for costs significantly lower than those to which they are subject to develop similar capabilities, and with deadlines compatible with the execution of the Law of Programming.
This first article deals with capacity-based Quickwins, forgive the anglicism, but there is hardly a term in the French language capable of describing this notion of rapid gains with limited effort, which can be characterized by compliance with 3 strict criteria, namely a capacity gain greater than 20% compared to the existing one, a cost less than 35% of the standard price, and implementation deadlines less than 7 years, therefore allowing a capacity gain before 2030. This article, non-exhaustive, has identified 5 of these Quickwins, relating to the fighter fleet of the Air Force, the surface and maritime patrol fleet of the French Navy, as well as the fleet of tanks and combat helicopters of the Army, all strongly concerned by the evolution of the threat of high intensity engagement.
1- Reduce the Army's Leclerc tank fleet to 270 units
The 2019-2025 Military Programming Law, using the format decreed by the 2014 White Paper, plans, to date, to modernize only 200 Leclerc tanks to constitute the strike force of French land units until at least 2035 and arrival of the first armored vehicles from the MGCS program. However, this number will force the Army to reduce the allocation of its 4 tank regiments arming the 2 French divisions, namely the 1st hunter regiment from Thierville-sur-Meuse in Lorraine, the 501st tank regiment from Mourmelon- le-Grand, the 12th Cuirassier Regiment of Olivet, and the 5th Dragoon Regiment of Mailly-le-Camp, as well as removing the allocation of 15 Leclercs to the 5th Cuirassier Regiment positioned in the United Arab Emirates. In order to provide these 4 regiments with the 60 Leclerc tanks that they need, and to preserve the endowment of the 5th Cuirassier regiment on the one hand, and of the 1st Regiment of African Hunters of Canjuers which trains the crews, the Army would need not 200 tanks, but 270 modernized Leclercs. However, this need could be easily satisfied, and at lower cost.
In fact, at the beginning of the 2010s, the Army still fielded 356 Leclerc tanks. Apart from the 220 examples still in service, the 136 examples have been mothballed. As is often the case in this case, many of them served as a stock of spare parts, especially since the 2010s were marked by starving budgets and operational pressure that was far from negligible. However, to date, around fifty of these tanks could actually be taken out of their reserve and, subject to technical restoration and MLU modernization, could very well complete the inventory of French tank regiments. In total, the 50 preserved tanks, as well as the 20 units still in service, would represent a capacity gain of 35% for the Army in this key area for high intensity. The investments necessary for such an upgrade should represent, for their part, between €3 and €4 million per armored vehicle, or 35% of the price of a modernized Leclerc, if indeed this notion makes sense since it is impossible France has been producing new Leclercs for many years and dismantling the production line. Finally, the necessary work could without great difficulty be carried out during the upcoming LPM, that is to say before 2030, therefore respecting the definition initially given to Quickwin.
2- Acquire the Emirati Mirage 2000-9 for the Air and Space Force
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