Even after the health crisis that hit the world hard, the defence sector does not seem to be among the collateral damage. Indeed, this sector is in very good health and is even evolving in a positive way with prospects for the future. The French defence sector is among the actors of this development with numerous projects.
The threats facing NATO and Europe persist, which leads to an increase in defence budgets, allowing a multitude of new projects to flourish and generating an increase in employment in this sector.
The French giant Airbus has placed its 100th order for the A400M aircraft. This order concerns the branch of Airbus, “Airbus Defence and Space” which will deliver its hundredth order for the Spanish Air Force in Zaragoza. This branch of Airbus now has eight customers with France, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Luxembourg and Malaysia.
In total, this aircraft model has logged almost 100,000 flight hours worldwide. The A400M has not finished making news either with the successful refuelling operation of two H225M helicopters in mid-air. The aircraft is noted for its ability to be extremely versatile – it can deploy 100 paratroopers, carry more than 37 tonnes of equipment or land in conflict zones.
While aircraft around the world were grounded, the Airbus A400M was in high demand during the pandemic. The A400M has been used for a variety of missions, including civil rescue and evacuation operations, medical equipment transport, and as a ‘medivac’, with a reconfiguration that allows it to provide intensive care on board.
The same is true for the arms industry in Bourges, the French capital of munitions, with little-known SMEs benefiting from the many new arms programmes headed by the giants Nexter and MBDA. The economic impact of the health crisis has been minimised thanks to this sector, which is constantly developing new cooperation programmes with its European allies.
This can also be explained by the increase in military spending by the EU Member States (European Union) but also by the creation in 2019 of the European Defence Fund. France is one of the European leaders in arms production and export and has noted a 36% increase in cooperation programmes with European partners between 2019 and 2025.
Moreover, on 19 April 2021, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, announced an increase in the defence budget in order to feed the recovery plan and thus revive the French industry at the same time. Especially since 80% of the activity related to the French armament industry is produced on the territory. These public orders make it possible to limit the damage while waiting for civilian orders to resume.
It is now Croatia’s turn to choose the Rafale as its fighter aircraft. After Greece, Croatia is the second European country and NATO member to have chosen the French model. This order amounts to 12 Rafales for a sum of approximately 1 billion euros. This is a series of good news for the manufacturer Dassault Aviation which also obtained an order for 30 Rafales for Egypt in early May.
These 12 Rafales will replace the obsolete and out-of-date Russian Mig-21s. It is a strategic decision because this choice allows to change the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Rafale has thus won the international call for tender against the American F-16s and the Swedish Gripens.
Croatia has also ordered Mica air-to-air missiles from MBDA and AASM bombs from SAFRAN. In addition to all this, training will be organised by the French Air Force and by teams from Dassault Aviation. The French defence sector is also in discussions with Switzerland to respond to its call for tenders for 40 additional combat aircraft. This booming sector provides employment for around 7,000 people and the contribution of 400 SMEs.
In addition, three countries will be part of the agreements to proceed with the development of a new European programme for 2040: Germany, France, and Spain. This project will eventually replace the Eurofighters used by Germany and Spain and should also replace the French Rafales. This programme is called the “Future Air Combat System” (SCAF). This project will be largely developed by the two major French aviation groups Dassault Aviation and Airbus.
The European Commission has decided on a budget of 7 billion euros for the defence and space industry. This will of course lead to many new armament programmes in the coming years, and thus to a future full of prospects for the defence industry in France and in Europe. In view of the growing threat to NATO and therefore to Europe, defence budgets are increasing and so are the programmes linked to this increase, which means that the future is clear for the arms industry and for defence in general.