PARIS – The French Air Force is keeping a close eye on Safran to deliver fresh stocks of guidance kits for its powered smart bomb, needed to rebuild reserves of ordnance for the Rafale fighter, a senior officer said.
"We have laser guidance kits bought off the shelf from the United States, and guidance kits in its different versions for the Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, which we have ordered from the manufacturer Sagem," Air Force Gen. Jean Rondel told Oct. 12 the French Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee. The Senate record of the committee hearing recently became available.
The US kits have been delivered, some sent to the theater of operations to avoid dropping below a critical level of stock, he said. Those kits were mainly for the Mirage 2000.
"We now have to make the same effort for guidance kits for the Air-Sol Modulaire for the Rafale," he said. "The challenge is clearly for the company, which received an order in summer 2015." Another order is epxected by the Direction Générale de l’Armement between now and the end of the year.
"The challenge is clearly to increase the production rate so Sagem can supply us with the kits," he said. "We will watch the situation closely, knowing that our stocks allow us to respond … that we do not want them to reach critical levels."
Sagem has been renamed Safran Electronics & Defense. A Safran ED spokesman declined comment.
Apart from the guidance kits, there was the issue of stocks of bombs, Rondel said.
Specifically, relating to stock levels were questions about replacement of bombs used, and raising the total number in inventory to better manage the changing needs, Air Force Chief of Staff André Lanata told the Senate committee. The 2017 budget reflects the need to boost the stock of bombs, reflecting a high rate of use.
There is a basic question of industry’s capacity to increase production, he said. "To support the war effort, a war industry is needed."
France bought bombs from Western allies, notably from Canada and European forces, and ordered bombs from the US to build up stocks, which were seen as too low, Rondel said. France no longer has a bomb manufacturer.
The level of bomb stocks has risen in the past, with the Libya ariel campaign showing an unexpected need to resupply European air forces with small-to-medium sized munitions.