French Arms Exports Climb 25% In 2011

France remained the world‘s fourth-largest arms exporter last year, behind the U.S., U.K. and Russia, reporting a 25% boost – from €5.1 billion to €6.5 billion – at the end of 2011.
The French armaments agency DGA estimates the world‘s top four arms exporters account for 90% of the global military export market, although anemic U.S. and European budgets are helping to stimulate the market entry of new players, including China and South Korea.
French export performance in 2011 is about the same as in 2010 in terms of revenue, but still far behind 2009, when exports totaled nearly €8.2 billion, according to DGA.
Highlights among France‘s 2011 exports include the sale of Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia, India‘s upgrade to its Mirage 2000 fighters and the sale of armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
During a France-U.K. defense and security cooperation summit Feb. 17, the two countries agreed to increase cooperation, including satellite communications.
“France and U.K. will look to confirm their intent to adopt a cooperative approach to meet their need for future COMSAT services, considering they will form a core asset in any Beyond Line of Sight capabilities in the future,” according to a joint communiqué released in conjunction with the summit. “A comparative study will be made by mid-2012 to analyze different architectural options.”
Simon Kershaw, executive director of Astrium Services‘s Telecom Governmental business, says the Skynet model provides secure milsatcom services to multiple nations while preserving national security and sovereignty.
“International cooperation on milsatcoms is our business, and so we are well-placed to assist the French and U.K. governments in finding cost savings from a cooperative COMSAT project,” Kershaw says. “Today we provide milsatcom services to 14 nations including the U.K., NATO, the USA, and France.”
DGA invested €10.7 billion in the French economy in 2011, including €724 million in research, an increase of 4.2 % over 2010.
DGA said the budget devoted to what it calls “Urgent Operations” was down in 2011 despite France‘s military intervention in Libya , a decrease DGA attributes to the fact that it has been able to anticipate future operational needs.
Urgent Operations includes last-minute demand from the French Joint Defense Staff for specific hardware or technology developments given an imminent operational need. These totaled 17 in 2011, including seven for the Libyan operation, with a combined total budget of €20 million.
This compares to 34 Urgent-Operations demands in 2010, which required €170 million in spending.
Among the Urgent Operations in 2011 was a program called “Full-Motion Video” to permit sharing, in real time, of videos from unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the coalition in Afghanistan.
Collet-Billon said DGA is expecting French defense authorities in 2012 to conduct a thorough update of the French White Paper on Defense that was published in 2007 to account for the heightened threat of ballistic missile attack and cyber warfare.
A second goal for 2012, he said, is an update of the French military program law, which four years after its publication needs to be updated to account for the Franco-British medium-altitude, long-endurance drone project, planning for a new generation of combat aircraft to be operational in 2030, and reinforced capacities in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

By Amy Svitak aviationweek

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