France’s 2012 defense budget has had to cut €267 million ($352.4 million) from its original request of €31.72 billion. Had the axe not fallen, this budget would have remained stable, since the original 1.8% rise on the 2011 figure was just above the 1.7% inflation rate. The increase now is 0.75%.
Funding includes income of €900 million from selling military radio frequencies; €160 million the defense ministry earned from selling real estate; €30 million from the sale of used equipment; and €100 million from the finance ministry for higher fuel prices.
The extra costs incurred by France’s participation in NATO’s Libya operation officially amount to between €300 million and €350 million, but has no effect on the budget, as extraordinary costs of overseas missions are met by an inter-ministerial reserve fund.
On Nov. 7, Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced a tough austerity plan that includes eliminating another €100 million from the defense budget in addition to the €167 million reduction announced a few weeks earlier. This will bring the defense budget down to €31.4 billion. Jean-Claude Viollet, an opposition socialist party member who belongs to the National Assembly Defense and Armed Forces Commission, remarked after the cuts were announced that “we were close to the bone but now we’re beyond it.”
Each of the four defense sectors will pay their due. As DTI went to press, defense ministry officials did not yet know where the new €100 million cut would hit. But the first cut of €167 million was approved by parliament on Nov. 9. The bulk—€88.3 million—affects the DGA procurement agency’s budget, which drops to €11.76 billion from €11.85 billion. The logistics and IT budget of €3.3 billion loses €44.5 million, while a further €25 million will be taken from armed forces and equipment maintenance funds, bringing the initial €22.34 billion down to €22.31 billion. Finally, €9.2 million will be shaved from the R&D, intelligence and secret services budget of €1.85 billion.
There is nothing as spectacular on the 2012 order book as the Barracuda nuclear submarine, which was in the 2011 version. One interesting item is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fill the gap between now and 2020-23, when the European MALE UAV is to enter service. France is developing this with the U.K. in the framework of the defense cooperation treaty both countries signed in 2010. Defense Minister Gerard Longuet announced last July that he had decided on Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron TP platform, which Dassault would “Frenchify.”
Quite a few items on the procurement list involve renovation: five Cougar helicopters; Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft; and C-135 tankers. Others are a continuation of existing programs, such as launching a production tranche of the M51.2 ballistic missile and ongoing development of two Multinational Space-based Imaging System optical and infrared reconnaissance satellites, which will start replacing Helios 2 military observation satellites by 2016. The satellites, developed by Astrium Satellites and Thales Alenia Space, were ordered by the defense ministry in November 2010.
Other items include two Dassault Falcon 2000LX aircraft for government use and 34 NH90 helicopters.
Equipment to be delivered in 2012 includes a renovated Transall C-160 Gabriel aircraft to gather electromagnetic intelligence and satellite transmission stations; the Fremm-class Aquitaine multimission frigate; three Caracal helicopters; 11 Rafales; six Tiger helicopters; 100 VBCI armored vehicles; 38 VHM high-mobility vehicles; and 4,036 Felin future soldier systems. Armament includes 228 air-to-ground modular AASM missiles and 16 Exocet MM40 Block 3 missiles.
In addition, two ground-to-air FASF SAMP/T missile systems, 61 Aster missiles, 10 MICA missiles and 15 renovated Mistral missiles will be delivered. These will be nowhere near a replacement for the 950 bombs and 240 air-to-ground missiles that French forces used in Operation Harmattan over Libya, the 431 HOT missiles fired by helicopters and the 3,000 100-mm and 78-mm shells fired by ships.
Projection, mobility and support equipment to be delivered in 2012 includes 200 PVP small protected vehicles; five Casa-235 transport aircraft; four modernized Cougar helicopters; 1,500 combat parachutes; eight NH90 helicopters; three Sprats (rapidly deployable floating bridges); and Dixmude, the third Mistral-class multimission vessel. Longuet says of the ship: “We were able to appreciate the extreme usefulness of this [type of vessel] during operation Harmattan, where the [ship] was deployed as a helicopter carrier.”