On October 4, the Defense Council of France will be reunited in order to discuss the new defense posture of the V Republic. The President Emmanuel Macron will pronounce on his ambitions regarding the foreign military interventions of France.
As it was reported by Le Monde, the discussion will be rather about the adjustment of the strategy and approaches rather than about increase of military projection capabilities. According to Ms. Florence Parly, French Minister of Defense, there will be no discussion about “lowering the guard” but about adapting the level of engagement depending on the “situation on the ground”.
Meanwhile, French military apparatus raises the questions regarding the capabilities of the French Armed Forces to be engaged once more, on a short notice, in the operations such as “Serval” (operation in Mali launched in January 2013).
Currently, France has around 30000 troops deployed inside and outside of the national territory, carrying out multiple military operations at once. Since 2013 France has been involved in a number of overseas military operations such as “Serval” in Mali (in 2014 incorporated into “Barkhane” in the Sahel), “Sangaris” in the Central African Republic (2013-2016), “Chammal” in Syria and Iraq, as well as a part of the NATO-led reassurance mission in the Baltic states (since 2016), at the same time some 10000 troops are involved in the “Sentinelle” opération on the French soil that was launched after the terrorist attacks of 2015.
It is highly likely that the operation in the Sahel will evolve in something involving more local initiative and troops, that may be under the auspices of the “G5 Sahel” group. Regarding the home operation “Sentienelle”, the number of troops committed will remain the same, but they will be deployed in a different manner – 3000 troops on patrol, 3000 in reserve and 3000 on training with the police units instead of today’s 7000 on patrol and 3000 in reserve.
France is currently preparing a new Strategic Review and it seems that more attention will be paid to the heavy armored equipment and the cyber defense capabilities instead of focusing mainly on the nuclear deterrence.
The Budget talks
In 2017 the defense budget of France was at around €40 bn (1,77% of GDP), however €2,7 bn of credits were frozen and the government went, even more, introducing the €850 mln defense cuts that were almost immediately supported by the Parliament, we can no longer speak of this budget. By the way, France’s Head of General Staff, General Pierre de Villiers, resigned from the office demonstrating a strong disagreement with such cuts.
However, France has pledged to meet the NATO criteria of 2% of GDP allocated for the needs of the national defense. The Presidency has already promised additional €1,8 bn for the needs of the Armed Forces in 2018 and €1,6 bn every year through 2022. But it still remains unknown whether the 2% GPD criteria could be met with such space of defense budget increase.
More UAVs for the Air Force
France Air Force, or to be more precise the Reconnaissance squadron 1/33 Belfort, operates two types of UAVs – six US made drones MQ-9 Reaper and four European-Israeli Harfang/Eagle One.
Currently, all of six Reapers, bought by France from the US in 2013, are deployed in Africa and are operated from the facility in Niamey, Niger. Six more drones should be delivered in 2019 and, whether they will be equipped with the armaments will be decided in 2018.
Meanwhile, the discussions on the reduction of dependence on the US military hardware is underway in France, that is why in 2015 Paris joined the German-Italian-Spanish project of European drone, that is planned to be ready for 2025.