Artillery, armored and rotary transport: France’s record defense spending in 2023

On February 1, 2024, France’s General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) announced acquisitions by the French military in 2023, detailing a huge range of spending, amounting to €20.3 billion ($21.8 billion), drawn from funds allocated by the Military Planning Act (MPL) 2024-2030, passed in July 2023.

About 9 billion euros were allocated in December alone.

The full MPL 2024-2030 spending plan represents a historic defense spending commitment for the period, with the total over the next seven years expected to be €413.3 billion.

Starting with the 2023 budget of €43.9 billion, the MPL envisages a €3.3 billion increase in the defense budget for each of the years 2024 and 2025. Thereafter, the increases will slow to €3.2 billion each year from 2026 to 2028 and then accelerated by an additional €3.5 billion each year thereafter until 2030.

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The annual defense budget will reach €67.4 billion by the end of the programme.

GlobalData defense analyst Tristan Sauer commented on this development, stating: “The continued escalation of French defense spending and acquisitions in 2023 is evidence of the Military Planning Act’s effective approach to the defense budget. Current spending under the MPL 2024-2030 builds on the foundations laid by the MPL 2019-2025, promoting France’s strategic modernization objectives.”

“The imperatives driving this modernization have intensified recently,” Sauer continued. “France’s focus on strengthening defense industrial capacity is seen as essential to prepare for potential high-intensity conflicts, as outlined in the 2023 Strategic Plan. With key programs such as Scorpion and Caesar, launched under the previous MPL, to scale up production, it is expected that more funding will go towards these successful efforts.”

This capital injection is a strategic move that underscores France’s doctrine of strategic autonomy. It strengthens its position as a major player in European defense as it is the only nuclear power that is a member of both the European Union and NATO.

The 2023 acquisitions for France include a range of new equipment for the Army, including Caesar cannons and Serval Armored Vehicles, as well as Caiman helicopters for the Special Forces. These acquisitions are instrumental in strengthening France’s military capabilities, ensuring that it remains well-equipped to effectively meet modern defense challenges.

109 Next Generation Caesar Cannons:

The order for 109 next generation Caesar cannons marks a major upgrade for French ground forces. Completed on December 30, 2023 by DGA, this agreement with Nexter Systems represents a strategic investment of approximately €350 million. The Caesar Mk II systems, an advancement over current models, bring a number of improvements focused on mobility , connectivity, ballistic protection and firing efficiency.

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These improvements are to substantially enhance the artillery capabilities of the French forces. Caesar, a system in operation since 2008, stands out for its effective combat performance, striking a balance between a towed cannon and an armored self-propelled gun. Mounted on a 6X6 truck with an armored cab, it offers a firing range exceeding 40 km and in motion can achieve road speeds of over 80 km/h, with a range without fuel of over 600 km. Its mobility and accuracy provide an advantage in long-range fire support.

Carried as a single load on a C-130 Hercules transporter, the Mk II version retains the airlift characteristic of the current Caesar, while introducing significant upgrades. It includes a reinforced cabin for better protection against IEDs, mines, small arms fire and artillery shrapnel. In addition, the Mk II will have a more powerful engine, a new automatic transmission and a revised chassis. These improvements not only increase the cannon’s mobility but also its tactical flexibility.

In terms of firepower, the Caesar Mk II’s artillery accuracy will be further improved through the integration of state-of-the-art fire control software. It remains compatible with current ammunition types while preparing for future precision ammunition. The vehicle will also incorporate common vehicle electronics used in modern and interconnected SCORPION program equipment, improving its operational performance and integration with other systems.

420 Serval Armored Vehicles:

On December 30, 2023, the DGA placed an order with KNDS France and Texelis for 420 Serval multi-role light armored vehicles. With a value of almost €500 million, this order is a continuation of the SCORPION program, following an earlier acquisition of 364 Serval vehicles.

The Serval is a 4×4 armored vehicle that weighs between 15 and 17 tons depending on its load, incorporates the integration of modern battlefield technologies. It features a remote-controlled turret, threat detection sensors and the SCORPION Combat Information System (SICS), which enables real-time tactical data exchange with other participating SCORPION program vehicles. The vehicle can carry up to eight fully equipped soldiers in addition to its crew of two, providing an additional tactical mission for troop mobility.

Designed to be flexible and agile, the Serval is part of a wider initiative to renew the Army’s combat vehicles, incorporating the Griffin and Jaguar, armored vehicles also being developed under the SCORPION program. The Serval is specifically aimed at replacing the aging Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé (VAB), which has been in operation for more than four decades.

This new batch of vehicles will include the development and production of an Electronic Warfare (EW) version, in addition to already planned variants such as the Armored Patrol Vehicle, Target Acquisition Surveillance Vehicle, Intelligence Reconnaissance Vehicle and Tactical Communications Hub Vehicle. This differentiation is in line with the Serval’s requirement to adapt to a variety of combat scenarios.

Production of these vehicles is to take place in Roanne at the KNDS France plant, which also manufactures the Griffon and Jaguar vehicles. The opening of this new production line has already created more than 1,000 jobs, proving a financial boon for this defense procurement. Additional manufacturing sites across France, including Texelis in Limoges, Safran Electronics & Defense in Montluçon and other regions such as Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Centre-Val de Loire and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur also benefit from this mandate, according to an announcement by the French Ministry of Defense on February 1, 2024 .

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The Serval is a 4×4 armored vehicle that weighs between 15 and 17 tons depending on its load, incorporates the integration of modern battlefield technologies. It features a remote-controlled turret, threat detection sensors and the SCORPION Combat Information System (SICS), which enables real-time tactical data exchange with other participating SCORPION program vehicles. The vehicle can carry up to eight fully equipped soldiers in addition to its crew of two, providing an additional tactical mission for troop mobility.

Testing and certification of the Serval prototypes included tests in various terrain conditions, accelerated aging tests to simulate years of use, mine blast resistance tests and compatibility checks with the A400M transport aircraft.

The inclusion of the Serval in the French Army fleet by 2030, with a total of 978 vehicles, will enhance the military’s operational readiness and capability for high-intensity combat scenarios.

Eight NH90 Caiman helicopters for Special Forces:

His acquisition eight additional NH90 Caiman helicopters; for the French Special Forces, as announced by the DGA on 20 December 2023, will strengthen the French air combat and tactical transport capabilities for special operations. This €305 million order complements ten helicopters previously ordered, bringing the total number to 18 NH90 Caiman helicopters expected by 2030.

The NH90 is an 11-ton twin-engine helicopter, a product of European cooperation with France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Developed by the NHIndustries consortium, which includes Airbus Helicopters, Leonardoand Fokker. The NH90 programme, managed for France by DGA, relies on the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA) for overall program management.

The NH90 Caiman, in its ‘Standard 2’ special forces configuration, is under development to meet the demanding requirements of special operations, providing new capabilities for intervention in low visibility environments.

Among the primary upgrades to the “standard 2” version are advanced mission equipment, including an infrared mission camera with laser pointer and designator (EOS410 from Safran), integration of new armaments and a specialized radio communication kit for conducting joint and coalition operations. These improvements are intended to enhance the NH90’s capability for commando import and export, fire support and tactical communications.

The NH90 Caiman helicopters will be manufactured at the Airbus Helicopters France site in Marignane, Bouches-du-Rhône. After production, they are expected to be delivered to the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment (4e RHFS) in Pau during 2026-2029 and will replace the older CARACAL and COUGAR models.



Read the original at Defence247.gr

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