France. Equipping the Army – Reconciling short and long term needs

General Elrick Irastorza, chief of staff of the French Land Forces, spoke to European members of the press ahead of Eurosatory 2010, which is set to be one of the biggest shows ever with over 1,350 exhibitors from nearly 60 countries, including China for the first time.

1st Jun 2010


General Elrick Irastorza, chief of staff of the French Land Forces, spoke to European members of the press ahead of Eurosatory 2010, which is set to be one of the biggest shows ever with over 1,350 exhibitors from nearly 60 countries, including China for the first time.

General Irastorza addressed the press quite freely on what he knows best: his army and its on-going overseas operations. As for weapons programmes, he said: “The Army examines without prejudice all industrial proposals. As it is a professional army, it puts a high price on the views of its soldiers with respect to the equipment that is proposed. These views are final.” Within the logic of current restricted budgets, the French Army expects even more from now from its industrial partners, whatever their size, to provide quality service at the right time, supply on a timely basis the equipment corresponding to the precise needs expressed and in accordance with the operational contract.

But what’s more, for General Elrick Irastorza, France’s Army is experiencing today its most stringent modernisation phase in some six decades:” Like numerous other armed forces worldwide, European in particular, the French Army is confronted with the need to reconcile current operations [Afghanistan, Lebanon, Africa, and their urgent operational requirements, UORs] and more long term preparation for the future. On the scene of current operations, soldiers handle particularly difficult tasks which require constant adaptation of equipment, training and doctrine, in reaction to urgent situation on the ground as they occur. At the same time, the Army is now in a major equipment renewal cycle, the third since the end of World War II, which is only the more urgent due to the strong need placed for the old equipment in current operations.”

Having to face more and more often a determined and intelligent foe in combat, the response to operational emergencies is found in the fast adaptation of equipment used to improve the capacity to detect and the fire power, protection of soldiers, means of communication and information and the equipment of the individual soldier. “For the Army, this represents over 100 operations in the last three years, with the participation of EMA [the French Army GHQ] and DGA [the French defence procurement agency] and the active support of the industry.”

As such major programmes like, for instance, the (Nexter) VBCI infantry fighting vehicle, the (Eurocopter) Tigre attack helicopter or the (Nexter) Caesar new generation self-propelled artillery system show the pertinence of preparation of the future over time as they significantly improve the capacity of combat units. This fact is now proven every day in combat in Afghanistan. However, for General Irastorza, the on-going modernisation of the French land forces will only be possible to its full extent once ‘Scorpion’ is put through its pace: “Scorpion, the major programme introduced by the Army in February 2010, is a symbol of the new approach adopted as soon as the structuring equipment is conceived, which is that of an internal conciliation within the same equipment of short and long term needs. It is therefore developed as both a federating programme seeking maximum sharing between the equipment constituting the combined tactical group, and as an incremental programme which will allow constant adaptation of platforms with significant evolutionary capacity.”

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