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French defense overview

Publié le February 14, 2008

“Each French soldier engaged in operations will be serving in a useful manner, for a legitimate cause and to implement a clearly defined policy” (President Nicolas Sarkozy, July 14, 2007)

The French Armed Forces model is tailored to the French military strategy which, while preserving the fundamental role of nuclear deterrence, and ensuring the protection of the territory, stresses prevention, limitation, or, if necessary, the resort to force to settle crises and regional conflicts.
The French military policy is based on a national military strategy, which keeps nuclear deterrence and Homeland Security as its core elements; it emphasizes prevention, limitation and, if needed, peacekeeping forces for the settlement of conflicts.

Our security and defense policy is closely linked to the European and international environment, therefore our services are increasingly tasked to conduct missions under NATO commands or coalition partners. The protection of our vital interests and the existence of bilateral defense agreements gives our French policy some autonomy, particularly as regards crisis assessments.

The French military doctrine is based on national independent nuclear deterrence and military self-sufficiency. The French Armed Forces work with its allies to adapt its forces to the new international environment and for the development of the European security and defense policy. France is a member of NATO and OCSE.
France participates also in various peacekeeping forces in Africa, the Near East, and the Balkans.

France took measures in the 90ies to transform its Armed Forces by turning it into a professional army, therefore smaller but more efficient in terms of overseas deployments. In 2007, the French military numbered over 350,000 men (including 100,000 military policemen), of which 35,000 serving abroad.

Since the end of the Cold War, France has supported the control of nuclear armament. In 1992, France signed the Non Proliferation Nuclear Agreement, and in 1996, it also signed the Test Ban Treaty.

In addition, given the global character of defense, military action is always conceived in partnership with other ministries. In that context, here are the missions entrusted to our Armed Forces.
- to continuously defend France’s vital interests against any form of aggression against its territories and its population
- to contribute to the security and defense of the European Union and Mediterranean space as part of a long term common European defense
- to contribute to peace and international law enforcement initiative
- to ensure public service tasks especially by enforcing on request
civilian defense assets and organizations.
- our Armed Forces’ missions range from peacekeeping operations under UN mandates to interventions within alliances or international coalitions under NATO or EU Command, and operations as part of our our defense agreements.

The French Armed Forces comprise the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and “Gendarmerie nationale “(military police), plus the various agencies like the Directorate General for Armament, the Uniformed Health Services.
The French Armed Forces are now made up solely of professionals.

The French Joint Chieff of Staff (Joint Defense Staff) is the command tool for the chairman of the JCS in defense, interagency or international fields. It is led by General Georgelin, a five star general officer and the four deputy chairmen of the JCS.

The Army is composed of 134,000 men including 15,700 officers, 2,700 cadets and France’s Polytechnic Institute Graduates, 46,700 non commissioned officers (NCOs) and 67,850 enlisted. In addition, there are 15,500 reserve officers and NCOs as well as 25,700 civilians. The 2007 budget amounted to 12 billions.

The Navy numbers 54,600 men and 125 ships organized in four major forces.
- Naval Action Forces
- Submarine Forces
- Naval Aviation
- Seals
There are three naval stations in France and five overseas, as well as one submarine base and six naval aviation bases.

The Air Force totals 65,000 men including 6,500 civilians and close to 8,000 reservists.
It is organized into two regions (north and south) and numbers 35 air bases in continental France, as well as 9 overseas.

It boasts numerous types of aircraft : combat, transport aircraft as well as helicopters. The deployment force include some 150 aircraft and 80 helicopters. The 330 flighter aircraft including the Rafale are regrouped into 19 squadrons suited for all types of missions.
The French Air Force has several training aircraft including the Alphajet, which covers all training requirements.

The “Gendarmerie nationale” is a military police force under the command of the Ministry of Defense. It numbers 104,00 men, including 4,000 officers and 75,000 NCOs as well as 2,000 civilians.