PARIS – France’s spectacular 72 percent jump in weapons’ exports in the 2015-2019 period from five years prior is largely thanks to two companies: Dassault Aviation and Naval Group.

The first of those companies sold Rafale fighters to Egypt, India and Qatar, while the second has become the most successful exporter of warships in the world — if one includes orders — selling submarines to Brazil and India, frigates to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, and mine-sweepers to Belgium and the Netherlands.

A report released on March 9 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes that “French arms exports reached their highest level for any five-year period since 1990 and accounted for 7.9 percent of total global arms exports in 2015-19.”

Diego Lopes Da Silva, a SIPRI researcher adds: “The French arms industry has benefited from the demand for arms in Egypt [which accounted for 26 percent of France’s defense exports], Qatar and India [14 percent each].”

Both politicians and defense industry leaders in France have understood that without exports they cannot afford to provide France’s own armed forces with the most innovative and high-performing weapons. Furthermore, buying weapons from the United States brings red tape, including requirement for congressional authorization on all foreign military sales, which can delay the process and some argue shackle France’s sovereignty.

In the words of Hervé Guillou, the out-going CEO of Naval Group, “no European country can maintain the competitivity of its defense industry based on just its own domestic market.”

Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.

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