European defense depends on French industry – EURACTIV Italy

The EU defense industry’s capabilities depend mainly on France’s sixty-year-old nuclear deterrence strategy, which encourages investment in cutting-edge technology. This was announced on Tuesday (August 29) by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine brings back issues of European defense and autonomy, the EU is seeking to secure a higher level of “strategic autonomy” (a term first coined in 2022 by French President Emmanuel Macron) in its critical sectors.

“The EU’s defense industry capabilities are concentrated primarily in France,” Trappier said at the annual meeting of the French business association MEDEF on Tuesday.

For the French fighter firm Rafale, achieving a greater degree of defense independence means recognizing France’s technological and industrial superiority in the EU when it comes to producing state-of-the-art defense materials.

“Growth (of the defense industry) should be based on technical capabilities (of member states) and not solely on opportunities for cooperation (between kindred countries),” said Trappierre, former president of ASD (European Aerospace, Security and Defense Association). ).

Strategic autonomy, according to Trappier, has been led by France for the past sixty years, ever since the country gained access to nuclear weapons under then-president Charles de Gaulle.

Nuclear deterrence helped “develop the defense and technological industrial base” characteristic of France, and economic players across the country were building up advanced capabilities, he explained.

France’s new defense law, passed in the summer, increased the national defense budget to 413 billion euros for 2024-2030, including another 50 billion euros for nuclear deterrence alone.

European Defense Agenda

France was criticized by other EU member states in Brussels for promoting an EU defense cooperation program that would greatly benefit its interests.

Paris often represents the largest number of companies participating in European Defense Fund (EDF) pilot projects and programs that stimulate scientific research and technological development and receive awards for the largest projects, thus facing criticism from some Member States or more small companies that denounce According to EURACTIV, the maneuvers in Paris are speculation.

In 2021, 178 French companies have been selected to implement projects. Italy came in second with 156, followed by Spain and Germany.

In 2022, the French company MBDA received a €70 million hypersonic missile defense project. The move was hailed as a “consolation prize” among the European defense industry after intense lobbying from Paris, two unnamed sources told EURACTIV.

Indeed, a year earlier, MBDA had not been selected to develop a European hypersonic defense interceptor because it failed to convince the European Commission of its authority. Instead, the Commission sided with the much smaller and less experienced Spanish arms manufacturer SENER.

Buy “European”?

Ultimately, any level of European independence in defense matters is closely linked to France’s ability to develop, increase and export its military experience and secure its independence, Trappier said.

“Let’s not give up what we already have for something much less certain,” the businessman said, referring to the hypothetical idea of ​​a pan-European defense force. Any future EU cooperation must “preserve” French industrial expertise, Trappier said.

“Peace is guaranteed by our ability to wage war. To prepare for war, it is not enough to enter the “war economy”: you need to be there in peacetime, ”he added.

The first important step could be the start of purchases of European ones, especially in the field of air defense. Dassault Aviation’s Rafale jets compete on the world stage with the F-35s of American competitor Lockheed Martin, which has agreements with some EU member states such as Germany and Finland.

“Europe spent 60 billion euros to buy the F-35, it’s a shame,” Trappier said. “Why don’t EU countries buy French planes?” – he asked.

This was told by Paul Maurice, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. HD extension in March 2022: “The F-35 is understood here as a symbol of US power in NATO. After all the talk of European autonomy and sovereignty, Germany was expected to be more supportive of a European armaments policy.

US-France cooperation

As for cooperation with American colleagues, nothing is excluded, the head of Dassault said. “Why not?” he joked.

However, if it means falling under the grip of the US export control regime, there’s nothing you can do about it, he said, speaking with Amy Schaedlbauer, assistant economics secretary at the US embassy in Paris.

“We need exports to have a viable industrial and economic base, and US export controls will prevent that,” Trappier said.

Schaedlbauer responded, “If further cooperation develops between the United States and France in the defense sector, the export control regime will continue to change to reflect this partnership.”

When asked if there was any willingness to create joint military technology such as the US-French fighter jet, Trappier shook his head.

(Co-edited with Alexandra Brzozowski/Natalie Weatherald)

Read the original article here.

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