PARIS — France’s Defence Procurement Agency ordered more than €1.1 billion (U.S. $1.2 billion) of self-propelled howitzers, armored vehicles and helicopters as part of the country’s plan to modernize its armed forces through to 2030.
The agency is buying 109 new-generation Caesar truck-mounted howitzers from Nexter Systems, a unit of KNDS, for about €350 million, the agency, known as DGA, said in a statement late Thursday. The orders placed in December also include Serval armored troop carriers from KNDS and Texelis and eight additional NH90 helicopters for the French special forces.
France has budgeted €413 billion euros for the armed forces in its 2024-2030 military programming law, a 40% increase over the previous period. The government has said it seeks for France to remain a major world power, while transforming the armed forces in the context of a return to high-intensity conflicts.
The procurement agency said total military equipment orders in 2023 amounted to €20.3 billion, of which nearly €9 billion came in December alone, including the purchase of 42 Rafale aircraft for more than €5 billion announced last month.
“These orders are intended to renew and modernize the capacities of the armed forces in all domains: air, land, naval and space,” DGA said.
The Caesar MkII ordered for the French Army will have an armored cabin to protect against mines and small-caliber arms, a need that became apparent from French deployments in Afghanistan and Africa’s Sahel region, KNDS said in a Feb. 2 statement. The truck-mounted cannon will have a new 460 HP engine more than double as powerful as the previous one, a new six-wheel chassis provided by Arquus and updated fire control software.
The howitzer will keep the existing 155mm cannon, with a range of more than 40 kilometers, and remain air-transportable, DGA said. France’s military planning law foresees having 109 new-generation Caesars in use by the end of 2030.
First deliveries of the new-generation howitzer are expected in 2026, according to DGA. The order was signed Dec. 30 and will generate nearly 300 jobs across France at KNDS, Arquus, Safran Electronics & Defense and Aubert et Duval, the procurement agency said.
DGA also ordered 420 Serval light armored-personnel carriers for close to €500 million, following a first order in 2020 for 364 of the vehicles. The four-wheeled Serval can carry 10 fully equipped soldiers, and partially replaces the VAB manufactured by Arquus, which entered service more than 40 years ago.
The army will receive a total of 978 Serval vehicles by 2030, with 60 already delivered in 2022 and 129 in 2023, the procurement office said. The Serval is part of the French Army’s Scorpion program to upgrade its armored vehicles, which also includes the heavy APC Griffon and the wheeled infantry-fighting vehicle Jaguar, both developed by Arquus. The military planning law calls for 1,405 Servals by the end of 2030, as well as 1,437 Griffons and 238 Jaguars.
France ordered an additional eight NH90 Caiman Standard 2 helicopters for €305 million in December, adding to a previous order for 10 of the aircraft, DGA said. The 11-ton helicopters will be built by Airbus Helicopters at its site in Marignane in southern France, for delivery in the 2026-2029 period, replacing Caracal and Cougar helicopters in use by the special forces.
The procurement agency also contracted with Naval Group for the modernization of the Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in 2027, when the French Navy’s largest vessel undergoes its third major technical overhaul. Delivery of the work is expected in 2028, with upgraded radar by Thales, a new Setis 3.0 surface-ship combat system by Naval Group and a new anti-missile system by MBDA equipping the Aster interceptor.
The upgrade “will maintain the carrier’s excellent defense capabilities in the face of future anti-ship missiles and drones,” DGA said.
DGA said it expects a first delivery of 200 Akeron medium-range anti-tank missiles from the end of 2025, out of an order for 1,300 placed in November. The agency also purchased 329 Mistral 3 short-range air defense missiles in December to replenish army and navy stocks. The combined value of the two orders for MBDA is more than €300 million, DGA said.
Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.