This story was updated Sept. 27, 2021, at 5:57 p.m. ET with additional financial information on the FCAS and MGCS projects.
STUTTGART, Germany — The French Armed Forces Ministry is pouring billions of euros into critical technologies and new equipment in 2022 as it sets its sights on a future battlefield dominated by advanced platforms, cyber defenses and space-based capabilities.
The budget, released Sept. 22, includes €40.9 billion (U.S. $47.9 billion) and reflects the nation’s commitment to increase its defense funds by €1.7 billion year over year since 2019. That yearly increase is a key component of the ministry’s 2019-2025 military program law; in 2021, the ministry allocated €39.2 billion to its military forces.
For the fourth year in a row, the French defense budget is in a “massive” upswing, and the 2022 budget represents a €9 billion increase over the 2017 budget, ministry spokesman Hervé Grandjean told reporters Wednesday. The French government has invested a cumulative €26 billion on defense over the past five years, a number that comprises all of the yearly budget increases, he noted.
The goal of next year’s funding is to focus on new areas of conflict — namely in space, cyber defense and intelligence — along with operational units, Grandjean said. The French military is expected to count 273,000 personnel by 2022, including 208,000 troops and 65,000 civilians.
About €1 billion will be disbursed by the nation’s Defence Innovation Agency to specifically tackle next-generation priorities, such as quantum technologies, artificial intelligence systems and directed-energy weapons.
The government will also allocate a portion of that sum for two major development programs:
- The Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System, or FCAS (known in France as the système combat aérien du futur, or SCAF).
- The next-generation tank known as the Main Ground Combat System, or MGCS, undergoing joint development by France and Germany.
Grandjean noted that FCAS collaborators intend to spend several billion euros between 2021 and 2027 on the program’s development stage. That phase includes a sixth-generation fighter jet powered by a brand-new engine; “loyal wingman”-type unmanned aerial systems to be deployed alongside it; a next-generation weapon system; an assortment of new sensors and stealth technology; and a combat cloud system to help connect all the parts.
More specifically, the Armed Forces Ministry has budgeted €287.2 million for the FCAS program in 2022 to cover ongoing studies and preparations for the demonstrator phase, a spokesperson told Defense News in an email on Sept. 27. The ministry has earmarked €58 million for the MCGS program, also mostly to fund studies, the spokesperson added.
Furthermore, the French military plans to spend €646 million in the space domain, and €23 million in the counter-drone arena in 2022.
The Air and Space Force will receive a number of anti-drone jammer guns, and the service plans to deploy an experimental counter-UAS laser weapon aboard a warship at sea next year. The weapon, developed by the French company Cilas and co-funded by France’s military procurement agency, underwent a successful demonstration on land a few months ago in Biscarrosse, per the government.
About €231 million will go toward cyber systems, and by 2022 France will recruit an additional 2,000 “cyber fighters” to bring its end strength in that domain up to 5,000. The nation also plans to spend about €11 million to develop a sovereign combat cloud capability.
Key service procurements, deliveries
The ministry expects a number of major equipment orders in 2022. The Army plans to procure:
- 200 medium-range missiles.
- 396 armored vehicles, to include Griffon, Jaguar and Serval vehicles.
- 50 upgraded Leclerc tanks, intended to extend the service life of the battle tanks and serve as a capability bridge until the MGCS comes online by 2035.
- 12,000 HK416 assault rifles.
The Navy plans to procure 11 satellite communication ground stations, while the Air and Space Force is buying four upgraded C-130H military transport aircraft, along with one SCCOA radar system.
Additionally, 2022 will see “very significant deliveries” across all the services, Grandjean said. For the Army, they include:
- 245 armored vehicles, including Griffon, Jaguars and Servals.
- 200 medium-range missiles.
- Eight NH90 Army-variant multirole helicopters.
- 2,075 radios.
The Navy expects to receive:
- Four upgraded ATL2 patrol aircraft.
- The first air defense variant of France’s FREMM multimission frigate, dubbed Alsace (D656).
- The second Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine, Duguay-Trouin.
- The first of four new BRF dual-hulled replenishment tanker vessels in the Jacques-Chevallier class, which will replace the Navy’s aging single-hulled Durance-class tankers.
The Air and Space Force expects to receive:
- Three A330 MRTT aerial-refueling aircraft.
- Two A400M military transport aircraft.
- Two upgraded Mirage 2000D fighters.
Additionally, multiple satellites are scheduled for launch in 2022. The service’s first Ceres signals intelligence system is to enter orbit, kicking off what will ultimately become a three-satellite constellation. A third CSO Earth observation satellite will be launched, completing that constellation, and the first Syracuse IV will be launched to provide greater connectivity to all domains and a needed upgrade over the current Syracuse III satellite, Grandjean said.
“We need bandwidth, we need connectivity, and this is what our new Syracuse IV satellites will give us,” he said, noting these capabilities will be key to enabling the entire FCAS system of systems.
Maintenance and infrastructure
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has made it a priority to ensure France’s military equipment is better taken care of into the future, and therefore €300 million is allocated for maintenance, Grandjean said.
Her ministry expects to spend about €2.4 billion on new equipment infrastructure. This will include the construction of France’s Space Command headquarters and the NATO military space center of excellence, both to be based in Toulouse. The ministry also plans to build new infrastructure to house the Air and Space Force’s A400M fleet, the Army’s armored vehicles, and the Navy’s Barracuda-class submarines.
About €1.6 billion is earmarked for “small equipment,” such as 70,000 new, more breathable and fireproof mesh clothing units, and 5,000 ergonomic bulletproof vests.
The total budget of €40.9 billion for 2022 includes €23.7 billion for equipment and modernization; €12.6 billion for salaries; and €4.6 billion for utilities and day-to-day operations.
Of the €1.7 billion increase over 2021′s budget, about €800 million is destined for armament programs and equipment maintenance; €600 million for smaller equipment expenditures as well as improvements such as benefits and housing; and €300 million for salaries.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.