Defence industries and technologies

The diplomatic network, an irreplaceable channel of information and influence at the service of defence industries

In order to translate its political will to include government support in military export industrial projects, a core component of our bilateral relations, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has put its diplomatic network to work for our national defence and security interests. This legitimatizes it role of coordinator of the various stakeholders including those working in government, Parliament, industry and civil society who are interested in defence and security, which are at the heart of the most important economic, industrial, social, and especially political and strategic problems.

An esteemed interlocutor of local authorities and point of contact for our manufacturers working abroad, the role of the French diplomatic network is to
analyse and convey the needs of local authorities in terms of equipment, oversight and offsets; and monitor and provide local government support for industrial projects.

The French diplomatic network also provides local support to French manufacturers, in particular SMEs, offering to provide advice and network with local authorities.

France and Europe, leaders in defence and security

With 5,000 companies and 400,000 jobs in the defence sector (including 165,000 direct jobs in the armament industry), French industry accounts for over 25% of European capabilities.

As the European defence industry is being established, European industries, and French industries in particular, need to offset the significant difference between European and American funds with their exports.

Against this backdrop, cooperation programmes help develop a European defence identity via a unique European offering to export to the international market.

The European Union is responsible for a third of global arms deliveries (especially France, Germany and the United Kingdom). Although in the last ten years, the United States, the European Union, Russia and Israel shared 90% of the market, new competitors, including South Korea, China and Turkey, are clearly striving to position themselves in the armament market over the long term.

The main companies of the French defence industry—Dassault Aviation, Naval Group, Airbus Group, MBDA, Nexter, Safran and Thales—are European and even global leaders and have a strong presence at international arms fairs such as the International Paris Air Show, Eurosatory, Euronaval and Milipol Paris, which attract several thousands of visitors to France.

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Main features of the arms market

The crisis has exacerbated competition. The number of orders from major customers in the arms market (in particular Middle Eastern oil companies) has decreased while new players have reached the maturity it takes to become serious contenders on the international export market, which means new partnerships need to be forged.

Big contracts (+€150 million) account for half of the global market in monetary terms, in particular in the aviation sector, which makes up 60% of the market.
For all countries, large-scale procurement is a an essentially political choice, and serves as a test of the quality of bilateral relations with the main exporting countries. France exports a full range of defence systems and such procurement provides an opportunity to create or to strengthen long-term partnerships.

States are the only ones responsible for monitoring arms transfers and use their exports as a means to conduct foreign policy.

States are likewise industrial players. Political choices of a defence posture and of the degree of autonomy determine the scale of the development efforts of their industrial and technological base and the amount of technological research financing, which is essential to this high-tech sector.

The French and European arms industry

Coordination of arms procurement

The coordination of European arms procurement policies is a natural and crucial way to reinforce the Common Security and Defence Policy. From the outset, France, a firm promoter of the capability approach to consolidate the respective defence efforts of European Union Member States and boost the synergy of their national and multinational projects, has worked to help establish the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR), which became a legal entity in January 2001.

France is involved in many European cooperation programmes regarding Tiger and NH90 helicopters, Cobra radar, the range of future surface-to-air systems (FSAF), the A400M ATLAS transport aircraft and multipurpose frigates (FREMM). It has also supported the enhancement of this cooperation through the creation of an agency in the area of defence capability development (European Defence Agency-EDA), decided at the Thessaloniki European Council meeting in June 2003. The EDA is jointly helping to harmonize armament needs and employment conditions in developing a common concept for the Rapid Reaction Force, which are essential for a more comprehensive integration of European armed forces.
In addition to these cooperation programmes, France actively defends the need to strengthen the European Industrial and Technological Base, which is unique in that it ensures the European Union’s industrial and technological base of defence equipment over the long term.

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Updated: March 2018