Troops stand near the new French Air Force Airbus A400M in September. The country's defense procurement chief listed the A400M contract among those that could be rescheduled or have numbers cut this year. (ALAIN JOCARD / AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS — This year will see programs launched for combat vehicles, light tanks and a new infantry rifle for the French Army, an order for 12 transport and tanker jets for the Air Force, and a signing for a fourth nuclear attack submarine for the Navy, France’s procurement chief said Feb. 18.
The new programs reflected the importance of “investing in industry,” while current “big contracts” have been or will be renegotiated, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) procurement office, told journalists.
Talks on rescheduling programs or cutting numbers include the Barracuda nuclear attack boat, NH90 and Tiger helicopters, Felin infantry gear, A400M transport aircraft, and the Frégate Européenne Multimission, he said.
The new contracts due this year include the Scorpion modernization program, with the Army eager to see the Véhicule Blindé Multirole (VBMR), and the light tank Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et Combat.
A development and production contract for the VBMR could be signed in October, a DGA official said.
An order for 12 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft is also due this year, with talks being held with builder Airbus Defence and Space to focus on transport and medevac missions, Collet-Billon said.
The expected deal for a future infantry weapon will replace the Famas assault rifle.
Some €9.23 billion (US $12.7 billion) has been set aside for equipment procurement this year, compared to €6.37 billion a year ago. Research and technology spending will be steady at €708 million compared to €706 million.
On cooperation in Europe, France has sent a combat vehicle, Véhicule Blindé Combat d’Infanterie, to the UK, while the French Army is testing the Watchkeeper tactical UAV from the British Army.
A decision on ordering the Watchkeeper could be made in weeks or months, and requires price information on details such as delivery schedule and service support, Collet-Billon said.
With Germany, there is crew training on the A400M plane, and possible work on satellite observation and a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.
Poland and France are exploring cooperation in naval and surface-to-air systems, Collet-Billon said.
On exports, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Morocco, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil were the big buyers in 2013, with total sales rising 31 percent to €6.3 billion.
The authorities expect one big foreign sale a year, and France has renewed relations with the Middle East, seen as “traditional” allies, Collet-Billon said. ■