French Defence budget increased
The French Loi de Programmation Militaire (LPM or Military Planning Act), covering the period 2019-2025 has been presented to the Council of Ministers for consideration and includes the proposal for a major increase in defence spending. Total expenditure over the period is scheduled to be €295bn, of which €198bn has been budgeted for during the present five-year government term between 2019 and 2023. The LPM provides for the delivery of 28 new-build Rafales to the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) between 2022 and 2024, while 30 more of the type will be ordered in 2023 for delivery by 2030. Efforts to further improve the Rafale’s capabilities will include developing the F4 standard, work on which is to be launched this year. A mid-life upgrade of the ASMPA missile will also be carried out. Additionally, the air force will benefit from the delivery of 55 refurbished and upgraded Mirage 2000Ds. Hand over of A330 MRTT aircraft will be accelerated, compared with previous planning, with 12 due to arrive by 2023 and a further three expected to be ordered, taking the total MRTT fleet to 15 by 2025.
The tactical transport fleet renewal will continue, with 11 A400Ms due to be accepted during the period, along with the final two C-130Js in 2019. All 14 existing C-130Hs will undergo modernisation, although a programme to replace them will be initiated by 2030. An avionics retrofit and modifications to the four E-3F AWACS aircraft will ensure full interoperability with NATO forces, even as the search for replacements will begin by 2035.
The LPM will also consider a Systéme de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF, Future Air Combat System), which will be a co-operative programme , with development of certain elements begun during this time period. The SCAF will comprise interconnected platforms and armament, centred on a multi-role combat aircraft covering the entire spectrum of operations, targeted for service entry by 2040. As for UCAVs, joint studies with Germany, Spain and Italy will continue with a view to launching a European MALE (Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance) UAV programme next year and delivery of the first system in 2025. It is planned to have eight MALE UAV systems in operation by 2030. The first three Patroller tactical UAV systems will be handed over and it is intended to have up to five in the French Army inventory by 2030. In addition, 15 UAV systems will be ordered for the French Navy, with entry into service planned for 2028. Light tactical UAVs, with multi-sensor intelligence capabilities and a weapons option, will be acquired for the special forces in 2019. The French Navy’s 18 Atlantique 2s will be upgraded even as a programme will begin to search for a replacement. Under the Charge Universelle de Guerre Électronique (CUGE) programme, three Dassault Falcon dedicated electronic warfare aircraft will be acquired to replace the two ageing C-160G Gabriele aircraft currently employed in the role.