|Political support helps the national defence industry to reach its best export results in the last eight years
07:33 GMT, January 28, 2009 defpro.com |
France exported €6.2 billion ($8.1 billion) in armaments in 2008, up from €5.5 billion ($7.3 billion) in 2007, Defense Minister Hervé Morin said last week at the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget during his New Year's greetings to the defence establishment.
Morin also said France exceeded its planned target of €6 billion and intends to further increase exports in 2009. Although 2008 was the best year since 2000, he sees further potential in the French Defence Industry and plans to surpass Britain as Europe's largest weapons exporter this year. Morin added that France could reach $9 billion in weapons exports by 2010.
One of the main pillars of French military exports next year could be the Dassault-built Rafale combat aircraft. The aircraft has not been exported yet; however it is said to have potential in several countries. Rafale is a contender for the Indian Air Force’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) requirements where more than 126 aircraft will be ordered by the IAF.
Rafale could also be the preferred option for the Swiss Partial Tiger Replacement (TTE) and the Brazilian F-X2 programme. The Swiss will need over 25 new aircraft in its first acquisition, while Brazil intends to buy some 36 planes to replace its aging Dassault-made Mirage fighter jets. A potential contract may be worth some €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) in Switzerland and over €1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) in Brazil. However, the most attractive opportunity is with India and worth over €7.6 billion ($10 billion).
Additionally, Libya and the United Arab Emirates have signaled strong interest in the French fighter aircraft.
The France-based Eurocopter (a 100% EADS company) has been very successfully exported. Cougar, Dauphin, Puma, Panther, NH90 and Tiger have all been popular exports and are in service with armed forces throughout the globe.
A very successful export product is the Scorpène-class diesel-electric attack submarine jointly built by the French DCNS and Spanish Navantia. Scorpène has been ordered by the Chilean Navy (2), Royal Malaysian Navy (2), Indian Navy (6), Brazilian Navy (4) and has been partially delivered.
DCNS is also jointly developing the FREMM Multipurpose Frigate with Italian Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (a joint venture between shipbuilder Fincantieri and aerospace firm Finmeccanica). With one ordered, the Moroccan Navy is the first export customer to purchase this frigate, which could also be a possibility for the Hellenic Navy’s need of six (4+2) such frigates. Defence analysts, however, don’t see any change resulting in Greece buying expensive vessels now since they are having difficulty paying for previously ordered purchases such as the German U212A submarine.
In his statement, Morin also pointed out that defence acquisitions are a political issue that have to be supported by a country’s politicians. "A country's purchasing decisions depend on the quality of the product and the product's price, but it is also a political act. There has to be both: industrial and political. If one is missing, our position is weakened," he said.
In this context, the French government has undertaken a reform of export procedures with the result being that export license applications now can be processed in less than 40 days, compared previously with 80 days and created a high-level arms sale task force with the aim to help the defence industry to better trade their products.
These are just some signals of President Nicolas Sarkozy administration’s strong support of the national defence industry. Much more important is President Sarkozy’s personal involvement. He speaks directly with heads of states around the globe to push French defence products and he bundles these military contracts with other civilian technological aid. This brings France a greatly advantageous situation since countries such as Brazil and India are interested in state-of-the-art technology from railway to nuclear power stations to civil infrastructure assistance.