France and the UK have discussed the sharing of certain capabilities, with the Watchkeeper UAV as one possible system. (Thales)
PARIS — French forces described how their new infantry fighting vehicle performed in the sub-Saharan desert when the British senior commander visited them in Mali on the Serval campaign, which could encourage London in ordering the kit, French Army Chief of Staff Bertrand Ract-Madoux said.
“Our two armies say they have very identical equipment requirements,” Ract-Madoux said in an article posted on the website of the Franco-British Council.
The operational needs may be there, but political backing may be absent.
Asked about a possible sharing of equipment, Ract-Madoux said, “Sharing capabilities is a big challenge which calls above all for a very ambitious choice by our heads of state and government,” he said.
“I am not sure our two countries have reached such a high level of cooperation,” he said.
Ract-Madoux was replying to questions about London and Paris possibly sharing the Watchkeeper tactical drone and VBCI.
“On the Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie, our mission in Mali with Gen. Sir Peter Wall gave me the opportunity to answer his questions and for him to appreciate the mobility and firepower of the French VBCI in the Mali desert, in the light of a possible acquisition by the United Kingdom,” Ract-Madoux said.
Ract-Madoux had invited Wall, the British Army chief of General Staff, to go with him to Mali in January, the report said.
France at the Jan. 31 Anglo-French summit handed over a VBCI fighting vehicle for trials by the British forces.
Nexter builds the VBCI, with the last unit to be built next year.
Regarding Watchkeeper, Ract-Madoux said, “Our operational expectations are the same, our tactical organization is similar and the evaluation phase conducted by our teams is fairly conclusive.
“The level of operational cooperation that we share with the British on the Watchkeeper should help bring together the two nations on this subject,” Ract-Madoux said.
French non-commissioned officers have been assigned since November to a British Royal Artillery unit flying the UAV and could be sent to a British Army Watchkeeper team in operation this summer, the report said.
Thales is the prime contractor on the Watchkeeper, based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450.
The British and French forces are telling their authorities that they are on the same time cycle for a number of equipment programs, including the 40mm gun and cased telescoped munition, Ract-Madoux said.
On the Caesar, the strategic mobility and good performance of the French truck-mounted artillery “could interest the British Army,” Ract-Madoux said.
Nexter builds the Caesar and is a joint venture partner with BAE Systems on the 40mm gun and shell.
Wall, asked about the French campaign in Mali, said, “The political and strategic outcome has to be questioned in any military intervention and the French operation Serval is a model for preventive containment with a strategic efficiency at low political cost.
“I have been impressed by this style of operation that we might have to execute when we leave Afghanistan, so politically and militarily the French expertise is very interesting for us.” ■