The best growth in NATO: France made a weapon breakthrough

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PARIS, (BM) – In 2015-2019, France managed to increase arms exports by 72% compared with the five-year period before, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), learned

French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation sold Rafale fighters to Egypt, India and Qatar. The Naval Group (DCNS in the recent past) has become the most successful exporter of warships in the world, given the sales of submarines to Brazil and India, frigates to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, and mine-sweeping ships to Belgium and the Netherlands.

Read more: France Sells 20 Military Patrol Boats to Ukraine Totalling €136.5M

The SIPRI report notes that “France’s arms exports have reached the highest level for any five-year period since 1990, and make up 7.9% of the total world arms exports in 2015-1919.”

SIPRI researcher Diego Lopez da Silva adds: “The French military industry took advantage of the demand for weapons in Egypt (which accounts for 26% of France’s defense exports), in Qatar and India (14% each).”

Against the backdrop of recent French successes, it is advisable to analyze which states were among the undisputed leaders in arms export over the past 5 years.

The United States remained the largest exporter of basic weapons in 2015–2019, supplying in money terms 76% more weapons than Russia, which took second place, according to a new SIPRI study.

According to Peter Wesemann, SIPRI Senior Researcher, the U.S. accounted for about 35% of total global arms exports in this five-year period, partly due to increased demand for modern American combat and military transport military aircraft in Europe, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan.

Studies have shown that the United States provided weapons (air defense systems, armored vehicles, missiles and satellites) over the past five years to 96 countries, with half of the weapons destined for the Middle East.

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In 2015-2019, the main arms exports of Russia decreased by 18%. France increased arms exports by 72%, making it the third largest exporter in the world. Arms exports from Germany grew by 17% (fourth place).

According to SIPRI, global arms exports increased by almost 6% in 2015–2019 compared to 2010–2014 and increased by 20% compared to 2005–2009.

The study showed that arms exports to countries in conflict in the Middle East increased by 61% in 2015-2019. Compared to 2010-2014, Saudi Arabia, the country to which the United States exported the most weapons, was the largest arms importer in the world in 2015-2019.

Kingdom imports increased by 130% compared to the previous five-year period. Armored vehicles, training aircraft, missiles and guided bombs were among the weapons acquired by the kingdom.

Despite attempts by the U.S. Congress to somehow limit arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the supply of basic weapons, including 30 combat aircraft ordered in 2011, continued in 2019, as the United States provided 73% of Saudi Arabia’s weapons imports.

In May 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration to push through a $ 8 billion deal with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries on the supply of precision bombs and related components. In July, he announced that blocking the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia “will weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships that the United States maintains with its allies and partners.”

Read more: French company developed AI-based platform to detect complex cyber attacks

US arms exports to Europe and Africa in 2015-2019 increased by 45% and 10%, respectively. US arms exports to Asia and the Oceania region fell by 20% as a result of declining arms exports to India, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Since 2018, the United States has exported nearly 100 major weapons to international organizations such as the United Nations, the African Union and NATO, the SIPRI report says, noting that Russia did not send weapons to these organizations.

Among the 10 largest arms exporters outside Europe and North America, Israel and South Korea showed the largest increase in arms exports.

Israeli arms exports in 2015-2019 increased by 77% – and this is a record for the country, according to a SIPRI study. South Korea, which showed a 143 percent increase over the same period, has more than doubled the number of its export customers.

“One of the most important elements in the structure of French arms exports is the sale of fighters,” Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told Gazeta.Ru.

According to the interlocutor of the publication, the most popular product in this line is the French multipurpose fourth-generation fighter Rafale, developed by the French company Dassault Aviation. Moreover, in Paris they carefully monitor that the combat vehicle, which made its first flight on July 4, 1986, constantly remains at the level of world requirements.

For example, in January last year, the French government signed with Dassault Aviation a € 2 billion ($ 2.3 billion) contract for the development of the Rafale F4 fighter, which is expected to be ready by 2024, although some functions of the new combat vehicle will be tested already by 2022. French Defense Minister Florence Parley also confirmed to the aircraft company that it could continue to produce the last 28 of the 180 aircraft that Dassault Aviation has on its orders.

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The F4 standard includes the refinement of the RBE2 radar with an active phased array, the TALIOS long-range radar guidance module and the Reco NG reconnaissance module (all equipment is manufactured by Thales). Modernization will also affect the communications complex, displays on the helmets of pilots. The machine will be equipped with a new engine control unit. The deck version (“Rafal-M”) will receive an updated, all-weather and more accurate landing system for aircraft carriers.

These 28 aircraft will have some F4 functionality and will be delivered to the French Air Force starting in 2023.

Florence Parley announced that another 30 F4 full aircraft would be ordered in 2023 for delivery between 2027 and 2030, leading to the French Rafale fighter fleet reaching 210 combat vehicles.

The fighter will also have new weapons, in particular, an air-to-air missile developed by the MBDA of the Mica NG type and AASM modular air-to-ground weapons weighing 1,000 kg, and will also be able to carry new Scalp missiles. The F4 standard will also be equipped with Thales multifunctional Talios optocoupler.

Rafale F4 will have new advanced features for conducting network wars.

“We will be able to receive more data, improve our data transfer speed, talk, receive information, in particular, thanks to satellite communications and software-defined radio. The Rafale F4 will go even further into the data era,” said Florence Parley at the Dassault factory in Merignac near Bordeaux.

“The F4 standard ensures that Rafale remains at the level of world-class fighters so that our air forces can carry out all their combat missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrence policy,” said Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier.

Read more: MBDA Develops a New Electronic Warfare Weapon for the Royal Air Force

Both politicians and leaders of the French defense industry realized that without arms exports they cannot afford to provide their own armed forces with the most innovative and high-performance weapons. In addition, the purchase of weapons from the United States includes many bureaucratic procedures, including the requirement to obtain permission from the US Congress for all arms sales to foreign armies, which may delay the procurement process, and some analysts argue that such actions could hamper the sovereignty of France.

According to Herve Guillau, the ex-CEO of Naval Group, at present “no European country can maintain the competitiveness of its defense industry based solely on its domestic market.”


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