France Addresses Its Military Modernization Priorities


In a 6 April 2023 piece, Murielle Delaporte focused on the French Military Program Law for 2024-2030. The piece was published on the website of Eurosatory which highlights key developments shaping the 2024 Eurosatory exposition in Paris.

In this excerpt from the article, the French Defence Minister’s focus on nuclear and priority conventional force modernization is highlighted:

For the minister of the Armed Forces, the government has a “generational responsibility” to modernize the nuclear component and deterrence, insofar as most of the decisions that affect the French population today date back fifteen years. “Decisions taken today will affect generations to come in the same way, whether it concerns launchers, warheads or specific investments made within the Military Applications Division du Commissariat à l’énergie atomique], the French Navy or the Strategic Air Forces.”

Echoing certain criticisms, he argued that the French nuclear singularity is in no way a “Maginot line”, as it does work. French nuclear deterrence contributes to that of NATO and strengthened its credibility, the minister also stressed out in response to questions from Parliamentarians.

Nuclear deterrence does not however constitute a magic wand against all threats, as “new areas of conflict are emerging under the nuclear vault”, e.g. space, seabed, or cyber.

The nuclear question also raises the fundamental reflection about strategic autonomy, sovereignty and alliances. It is necessary to sort out “what we must do alone, what we want to do alone, and what we can share“, in terms of industrial capacities or planning instruments at the multilateral or bilateral levels. The French model for its armed forces does depend on this question.

For Sébastien Lecornu, questioning France’s membership to NATO as some political parties do, is irrelevant, as France is one of its founding members. It is on the contrary important to reaffirm it, as well as the fact that “France is not isolated strategically-speaking ”. This does not however preclude the ability to distinguish between what NATO can and what it cannot do in other parts of the world.

Underlining the importance of conventional means required to support this nuclear vault, Sébastien Lecornu has then identified ten priorities in terms of modernization:

Intelligence – essential for Deterrence, the war against terrorism and anticipation in a tense strategic context – will benefit from a 60% budget increase in favor of its three major directorates: the DRSD (“Direction du Renseignement et de la Sécurité de la Défense”, i.e. the Defence Intelligence and Security Directorate, the DRM (“Direction du renseignement militaire”, i.e. the Military Intelligence Directorate) – to which the Minister paid tribute by emphasizing the “fabulous leap forward” in terms of the gains in situational awareness achieved since the first Gulf War – and the DGSE (“Direction générale du renseignement extérieur”, i.e. the General Directorate for External Security). Such an effort to continue to imporve our intelligence capabilities are all the more important that the services have been mainly focusing over the past years on the fight against terrorism.

Drones (which include loitering munitions) must be the focus of attention in terms of funding and research. Indeed it is not enough to close an unacceptable gap, but it is necessary to make a technological leap in order to meet the challenges we shall be facing in 2030-2035. This is true for all the services and “a sum of five billion Euros will be dedicated” to the task.

Ground/Surface-to-air defense: if there is a major lesson learned from the conflict in Ukraine, it is that ground-to-air defense should no longer be neglected, as it is inseparable from deterrence itself. “[Système sol-air moyenne portée Nouvelle Génération]”, said the Minister.

Overseas capabilities must be enhanced whether on land, air or sea-based, without forgetting innovation and space issues: indeed, “space assets are especially crucial in these parts of the world where distances are especially challenging”.

Cyber needs to be clearly defined, since it touches upon both technology and doctrine, while raising the question of subsidiarity given its impact on sovereignty. First of all, it is necessary to be able to identify the origin of the attacks (develop “a kind of judiciary police”), as cyber criminality must be differentiated according to the type of targets affected. You also have to be able to hinder and to put an end to attacks, and, thirdly, you have to be able to counter-attack for the sake of “cyber self-defense”. The current challenge in France is the creation of human resources due to the lack of sufficient courses in the field of cyber and electronic warfare (including in high-ranking universities such as Polytechnique).

The protection of the Seabed: “the sixth “patch” [for modernization] “concerns the seabed, in the Overseas Territories, but not only“. The protection of the seabed is now called into question, as we can see in the conflict in Ukraine (protection of pipelines for example). We need to put an end to access denial. This involves mine warfare, as well as deep water robotic capabilities “up to six thousand meter deep”.

The space sector is also significantly behind in all areas, whether in terms of launchers or whatever means we sent into space – “what we do on earth in connection to space and what we do from and in space” -. In order to catch up, “an ambitious copy is also in progress” in that new battlefield.

The Special Forces were praised by the Minister for their courage: “joint and the first to march” , they “command the respect of all”, he said, while condemning the lack of capabilities as far as individual equipment are concerned, but also in terms of means of transport (particularly helicopters).

The field of ammunition, one of the central elements of the surge in industrial defense capacities towards a “war economy”, is being supported by new acquisitions and reshoring, such as the reshoring of the production of powder in Bergerac, a “first concrete decision” in sight.

Support as a whole must continue to be strengthened beyond the current “repair LPM” with particular emphasis on the Armed Forces Health Service (SSA in French for “Service de santé des Armées”) and its military field hospitals, for which a specific roadmap must be dedicated. “What I say for the SSA is also valid for the SCA’s administrative services (“Service du commissariat des Armées”), for the SEO’s energy support (“Service de l’énergie opérationnelle”) or even for the SID’s infrastructure missions (“Service d’infratrsucture de la défense”) …”, specified the minister. The budget allocated to the maintenance of equipment should increase by 40% from 35 to 49 billion Euros.

For the full article, see the following: