Despite the ongoing challenges the pandemic presents to industries globally, Minister of the French Armed Forces Florence Parly said France's ambitious shipbuilding programme for Europe's largest navy was continuing at a good pace. As part of the country's Military Planning Law, which pledges to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2025, Parly said €110 billion would be spent on the navy, a significant portion of which will be devoted to naval combat. She made the remarks at the opening of the Euronaval conference and exhibition, which was scheduled to take place at Le Bourget outside of Paris this week. The event was forced to move online as Covid-19 cases in Paris rose.
With the strategic environment in which the navy operates getting tougher by the day, as demonstrated by the Strait of Hormuz, where Iranian paramilitary vessels seized merchant ships in a tense stand-off last year and in the eastern Mediterranean where tensions ecently flared between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration, now more than ever, the sea is a space of uncertainty, tension, provocation and challenges of power, said Parly.
“France affirms its attachment to the freedom of navigation,” she stated. “The context of unprecedented naval rearmament and international tensions means navies need robust, reliable and efficient equipment and differentiating weapon systems at the cutting edge of technological progress.” The French Military Planning Law meets this need, said Parly.
“Never in the navy's last 30 years has its resources been so extensively renewed.”
She said the FREMM multi-mission frigate programme was continuing at a good pace, with the Lorient shipyards running at full speed to deliver the Alsace in 2021 and the Lorraine in 2022. The Alsace commenced sea trials in early October. It is the seventh French frigate of the FREMM programme, which benefits from the achievements of the first six ASM (Anti-Submarine Warfare) and new operational capabilities, enabling it to expand its multi-purpose capacity. It features a new optimised mast and radar with enhanced capabilities to improve the long-range airborne surveillance function.
In eight years, Parly says the French Navy will have received eight “first rank” naval frigates. Defence and intervention frigates are also being built, with the first vessel, Admiral Ronarc'h, to be delivered by Naval Group in 2023.
Six overseas patrol vessels will also added to the navy's fleet by 2025 to protect the 10 million square kilometres of maritime space that makes up France's Exclusive Economic Zone. France has also launched an ocean patrol vessel programme for deterrence, which will see 2,000 tonne vessels delivered before the end of the Military Planning Law in 2025.
Construction of third-generation missile launchers is underway and a new generation aircraft carrier programme will be launched to replace the Charles De Gaulle in 2038. The new aircraft carrier will offer a framework for use suited to the ambitious Future Combat Air System, or SCAF, being developed by Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Thales and Indra Sistemas.
Under the water, France's Barracuda programme will deliver six next-generation attack submarines with the first, Suffren, scheduled to be delivered by the end of this year.
“Mine warfare is also a melting pot of co-operation in the form of the SLAMF Unmanned Mine Warfare System, which features integrated drone systems and will shortly be operational in co-operation with the UK,” said Parly.