French arms exports/BPCs/Russia
In the current context of a slowdown in world growth, French arms exports are playing a key role for the future of the country’s industry and for maintaining the defence posture. With €8.16 billion-worth of orders in 2009, France has confirmed her position as the world’s fourth-largest exporter. The total value of orders went from €6.58 billion in 2008 to €8.16 billion in 2009, i.e. an increase of over 20% (and 40% compared to the figures for 2007), which is the best annual performance since the start of this millennium.
Besides the competitiveness and high level of technology of France’s army, navy and air force industries, these export successes are also explained by the implementation of the strategy, initiated by the Defence Ministry in 2007, to relaunch exports. This strategy, which the highest State authorities are strongly committed to, has two major objectives: on the one hand to revitalize export support mechanisms, and, on the other, to simplify and facilitate control measures, with due regard for French policy on export control and the fight against weapons proliferation.
More particularly as regards the Rafale, the multirole model of which has been in operational use in the French armed forces for less than five years, the export prospects of this aircraft must be envisaged over a long period, in line with a new series of fighter aircraft fleet replacements worldwide. Because of its technology and versatility (air superiority and defence, air-to-surface attack, reconnaissance), the Rafale is indeed perfectly adapted to respond to the international market’s current and future needs. Its export sales potential is estimated at around 300 planes between now and 2030 (assuming, in the face of competition, that our traditional market share in this armaments segment, of between 10 and 15%, is maintained, for a global accessible market estimated at around 2,400 planes in the next 20 years). Negotiations on the Rafale – which has demonstrated all its technical qualities during the international exercises it’s already taken part in and its operational capabilities in the Afghan theatre – are currently at an advanced stage with several potential clients.
Finally, as regards the amphibious assault ships [LHDs or BPCs (bâtiments de projection et de commandement as they are known in French)], the BPCs “Mistral” and “Tonnerre” were delivered to the National Navy in February 2006 and February 2007 respectively. The BPCs allow marine forces to be projected to land by air or sea, or prepositioned closest to potential crisis areas. They also provide means to host an operative level command post on board and are capable of carrying out health, freight-transport and humanitarian-action support missions. They were built by DCNS [French shipbuilding company] in partnership with Aker Yards. It is proposed to export four BPC variants ranging from 14,000 to 25,000 tonnes. Russia is interested in one of over 21,000 tonnes. With this in mind, she has launched an international invitation to tender in accordance with her internal procedures for purchasing weapons. Negotiations on this with Russia are currently under way./.