U.K., France To Launch 'Ambitious' Cooperation Study


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Jun 23, 2010
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PARIS - Britain and France have agreed to a joint effort to examine which defense capabilities the two countries might share and those for which they could depend on each other, in a bid to boost cooperation in Europe, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin told members of the parliament here.

"We have decided with my British counterpart to launch a very ambitious operation," Morin told the parliamentary defense committee July 7, according to official minutes of the meeting.

"The new British government wishes that we analyze in a very detailed way what are the competences and means that each of the two countries should retain complete sovereignty, those which could be pooled, and those on which there could be interdependence," he said.

Work on the French side should be completed by the end of July, Morin said.

"We will compare our notes in November," he said. "The British are ready to envisage cooperation even in very confidential topics.

"One of the solutions we can envisage in coping with reductions in capabilities is to consider a strengthened operational cooperation with certain of our European partners, notably the United Kingdom, which is confronted by the same dilemma as we are," he said.

The British government is due to publish its strategic defense and security review about Oct. 20, while a separate defense industrial strategy paper is expected next year.

Morin said one intended area of cooperation is air refueling.

"For the MRTT [Multi-Role Tanker Transport] air tankers, we will try to work out a common plan with the British," he said.

France is postponing a number of programs, including an order for 14 MRTT aircraft, in an effort to cut 3.5 billion euros ($4.5 billion) from the defense budget over the next three years. An order for a new tanker fleet would be worth around 4.2 billion euros based on an estimated value of 300 million euros per militarized Airbus A330 in the MRTT version.

Among programs expected to be delayed will be the Ceres satellite system for electronic intelligence, he said.

As part of the budget, the government has assumed there will be export sales of the Rafale, which would allow a two-year pause in domestic orders of the strike fighter, Morin said.

"I hope this target will be achieved, as it will be extremely difficult to find measures which mitigate the situation," he said.

He said the main risk is an absence of foreign sales of the Rafale.

Dassault Aviation needs to deliver 11 Rafale aircraft a year to keep its production line working at an economic rate, and if the French government were to order units to make up a gap in exports, an additional 1 billion euros would be needed.

That potential call on funding was why the government had decided to postpone the upgrade of some 70 Mirage 2000D fighter-bombers to an air defense variant, he said. The lack of an immediate threat to French airspace and the availability of Mirages meant that a delay in Rafale orders posed little danger to national security, but it would pose problems for industry, he said.

The Mirage work would cost about 700 million euros, the French Air Force has said.

On the potential decision to buy the Reaper UAV from the United States, the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (DGA) procurement office has set a cost of 1.5 billion euros on the leading French offer for a comparable drone, while the American product would cost about 700 million euros, Morin said.

There was a contradiction in a French company asking the government to help in export of its goods while the same time asking the state to buy something which cost 800 million euros more than its competitor, he said.

On missiles, France has offered to sell the Meteor long-range missile to the United Arab Emirates, Morin said.

Paris and Abu Dhabi are in detailed talks on a co-development of an advanced version of the Rafale, including a 9-ton-thrust M88 engine, and improved electronically scanned radar and electronic warfare gear.

Other programs to be delayed under the cost cuts are implementation of level four of the SCCOA air command-and-control system, worth around 500 million euros in new radars, and some elements of the Scorpion land armaments modernization program, Morin said.


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