Why does the rapid modernization of armies represent a danger for the European defense industry?

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The Russian attack on Ukraine, which began in February 2022, was in many ways a real electric shock for the vast majority of Europeans, whether they are leaders, political figures and for the whole of public opinion. .

Within hours, three decades of certainty about the impossibility of a major war emerging in Europe, particularly involving a nuclear superpower like Russia, had been shattered. Naturally, many Europeans then wondered if their own armies, and their defense industry, were able to resist such aggression.

The shock of war in Ukraine

The awakening was then most painful. After 30 years of generalized under-investment in the military tool, and military commitments that are certainly difficult and costly, but of an asymmetrical and anti-insurgency nature, European armies were only a shadow of what they had been during the Cold War.

Not only had they lost two-thirds, often more, of their mass, but they had also, and more often than not, been coerced and forced, largely neglecting to modernize and maintain available equipment, however few in number.

Thus in 2018, the Bundeswehr made the harsh observation that it only had, in fact, four frigates, around fifty Typhoon and Tornado fighters, and barely more than a hundred operational Leopard 2 tanks. and ready for battle, while his entire fleet of submarines was blocked in the portss.

Type212 Germany
IN 2018, the 6 German Type 212 submarines were simultaneously unavailable and unable to go to sea.

Unfortunately, the German case was far from exceptional, with most European armies, east and west, facing significant availability and effectiveness issues in most areas.

And if the French armies, through their interventions in Africa and their nuclear posture fortunately maintained very seriously at its highest level by the General Staff, were then recognized as "the best European army", it was above all for lack of competition .

If the countries of Eastern Europe, in particular Poland and the Baltic States, had anticipated for some years the hardening of the Russian threat, and if Greece had maintained an effective defensive posture against the Turkish threat, all the other European armies were, in a way, cold-gathered by this shift.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first to react to this new situation, announcing, as of February 28, 2022, the establishment of an exceptional envelope of €100 billion to modernize the German armies.

Above all, it was a question of remedying the main critical shortcomings, while the government undertook to reach a defense effort of 2% of GDP by 2025, after having found all possible pretexts to deviate from this target. by NATO since 2014, and remained relevant until the Russian offensive.

Since then, all European countries, from the most imposing such as Germany, France and Italy, to the most modest such as Latvia and its 1,9 million inhabitants, have embarked on a vast effort to rapidly modernize and increase their military means, both to compensate for the equipment transferred to Kyiv to face Moscow, and to make a Russian offensive against NATO suicidal, whatever the scenario envisaged.

Warsaw wants to build its defense industry on the basis of an intense partnership with Seoul
If the first 180 K2 Black Panther tanks ordered by Warsaw are produced in South Korea, the majority of the 820 K2PL to come will be in Poland

The Polish defense effort

The most striking example of this effort is none other than Poland which, in barely 15 months, has ordered 1250 new K2 and M1A2 combat tanks, more than 700 155 mm K9 self-propelled guns, more than 1600 infantry combat as well as 96 Apache combat helicopters, 3 Arrowhead frigates and 48 FA-50 light fighters, among the most significant equipment.

While many questions remain about the funding of this exceptional effort, its overall characteristics, namely a major, global effort concentrated over a short period of time of less than 15 years, unquestionably represent today the most important subject of discussion. concern, especially since many other European chancelleries, including in Western Europe, have also embarked on a modernization effort with comparable characteristics.

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