If, during its initial presentation, the new French Military Programming Law 2024-2030 could appear dull and without emphasis, it was considerably fleshed out during the parliamentary debates, both because of amendments from parliamentarians themselves, as well as by amendments and clarifications made by the Ministry of the Armed Forces itself, particularly around the Rafale F5 program.
This is how several key programs were confirmed, such as the new generation aircraft carrier, while the budget envelope was consolidated at €413 billion, and the Ministry of the Armed Forces opened the way to other opportunities. , such as a second aircraft carrier or underwater combat drones.
The Rafale also received a great deal of attention. Thus, a few days ago before the National Assembly, the Ministry of the Armed Forces presented an amendment aimed at supervising the developments of the program, in particular of the F5 version which must have renewed capacities in terms of data fusion, but also new abilities, such as the suppression of the opponent's anti-aircraft defenses, and especially that of evolving alongside combat drones developed from the Neuron program.
However, if this amendment specified that the work of the Rafale F5 and its combat drone should begin and be continued on the LPM to come, everyone, including the CEO of Dassault Aviation, envisaged entry into service around 2035.
Questioned on this subject by the members of the Senate commission for the armed forces and international affairs, the Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, yesterday presented a timetable, but also a programmatic approach, much more ambitious.
Thus, according to the Minister, it is not a part but all the R&D work to give birth to the Rafale F5 and the combat drone derived from the Neuron, which will be carried out on the future LPM 2024-2030, which supposes, as he has explicitly confirmed it, that the two devices will enter service in 2030, or at least at the very beginning of the LPM to follow.
This statement, obviously more than welcome, is not the biggest surprise of this hearing of the Minister. Indeed, to develop the new aircraft, and finance them, the Minister intends to solicit "Club Rafale", i.e. the operators present (Egypt, Qatar, India, Greece) and to come (Indonesia, Croatia, United Arab Emirates United) of the device, to participate in this critical evolution of the program.
If, for the time being, it is probably only a potential opening mentioned by Sebastien Lecornu, this announcement nevertheless undoubtedly represents a profound paradigm shift around the Rafale program, and more generally in the way France envisages henceforth the relations it intends to maintain with the operators of its weapon systems.
Indeed, traditionally, France divides the customers of its defense equipment into two weakly porous categories. On the one hand, there are the partners, most often close European countries with which the equipment is co-produced, as is the case with the United Kingdom in the field of missiles and warfare under the sea, Germany and Spain in the field of combat aircraft and tanks, or Italy in the naval field and surface-to-air missiles.
The others are user customers, with whom it is possible to collaborate on an ad hoc basis, but who are almost never asked or even consulted when it comes to upgrading the equipment in service within the French armies.
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