How much would it cost French taxpayers to align the Army's high-intensity capabilities with Poland?

For several months, in connection with the war in Ukraine and the generalized increase in the risk of a major engagement in Europe and elsewhere, the question of the capacities of the French armies, and in particular of the Army, to deal with a conflict of "high intensity" has become a recurring theme both in the hemicycle of parliament and in government communication, the media and social networks.

Very often, Poland, which has announced a colossal effort to modernize and expand its land capabilities in this field in the years to come, is cited as a benchmark, making Warsaw the example to follow.

The 2024-2030 Military Programming Law currently being finalized seems not to have followed this path, retaining a format of the Land Operational Force, the armed wing of the Army, substantially identical to what it is today. today, and by only proceeding with a sectoral increase in certain capacities, such as in the field of Intelligence, anti-aircraft defense or even deep strikes and drones.

However, in 2030, according to this scheme, the Army will retain a limited operational force in terms of high intensity, with only 200 modernized Leclerc heavy tanks, 650 relatively light and lightly armed VBCI wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, less than 120 155 mm tubes and a handful of unitary rocket launchers, potentially replaced by American HIMARS.

In fact, in 2030, the Army will indeed be more efficient, in particular with the continuation of the SCORPION program and the delivery of the VBMR Griffon and Serval to replace the VABs, and the EBRC Jaguars to replace the AMX-10RC and ERC -90 Sagaie, and will have considerably increased reserves in terms of ammunition, but also personnel with the rise in power of the National Guard.

However, in terms of high intensity, it will be very far from the 6 Polish heavy divisions fielding 1250 modern M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 and K2PL Black battle tanks Panther, 1400 Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles, 700 K9 Thunder self-propelled guns and 500 K239 and HIMARS mobile rocket launchers.

If in many areas, such as air and naval forces and obviously in terms of deterrence, Warsaw will have to rely on its allies, it will undoubtedly have the largest conventional land force in Europe, significantly greater than the sum of the forces French, German, British, Italian and Spanish land combined, i.e. the 5 strongest economies of the old continent.

K2 Black Panther PL 01 Military planning and plans | Military alliances | Defense Analysis
The first K-2 Black tanks Panther were delivered by South Korea to Poland at the end of 2022

While we can only be pleased to see an ally equip itself so effectively in this area, it is clear that in many areas, the Polish positions and postures are far from being aligned with those of the Europeans of the west.

Furthermore, Warsaw obviously intends to take a central political position in Eastern Europe precisely to counter the influence of Western European powers within the EU, building on the aura that it will provide this military tool in the face of the Russian threat.

To balance the political balance of power, whether in the face of military, Russian or other threats (Turkey, etc.), or within the European Union and NATO, it would naturally be welcome for France to equip its Army of comparable power, as many former senior officers and generals keep repeating on social media and in the media.

However, beyond the need itself, it is necessary to assess the costs and constraints that such a transformation would generate, so as to determine its budgetary and social sustainability.

And as we will see, the budgetary effort of such an ambition would be far from out of reach, since it would be below 0,25% of French GDP today.

Since the objective of this article is not to discuss the Army's optimized organization chart to respond to these threats, we will take as a working basis a format often mentioned by subject specialists, with a FOT increased to 90.000 men (against 77.000 today) to arm two heavy divisions dedicated to high intensity, and a power projection and support division bringing together force multipliers and specialized troops such as the Marine Troops, the Mountain Troops , the parachute forces, the air mobility component (ALAT) and the Foreign Legion.


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