On Sunday, when France held its annual Bastille Day Parade, French national and international TV channels transmitted the event live. Among them was France24. For live commentary on the event, the channel invited a French Navy Capitaine de Vaisseau and a French Army Lieutenant Colonel to its studio.
The two officers were asked, among other things, about the French socialist government’s planned defense cuts, which include, inter alia, drastically reducing the Air Force’s fleets of combat aircraft, airlifters, and tankers, the Army’s tank fleet, and the Navy’s fleet of frigates. Orders for next-gen weapon systems, such as the Rafale fighter, the FREMM frigate class, and other systems will also be significantly cut. And of course, the Navy can forget about a second aircraft carrier (France has only one) or a fourth landing platform dock ship.
Yet, the two officers, being the blindly loyal government functionaries that they are, replied that even after these cuts, France will remain “one of the world’s (biggest?) military powers.” Likewise, the ignorant TF1 journalist David Sirria (spl?) claimed that the French military “counts as one of the strongest in the world, though still far behind that of the United States.”
I dearly wish it were true. But it’s not. It’s nothing but wishful thinking.
Those two officers and that TF1 journalist are indulging in nothing but wishful thinking.
Now let me be clear: I dearly wish France could remain one of the world’s biggest military powers after these cuts. I really do. Europe and the world desperately need a strong France, especially now that the US and Britain are gutting their own militaries.
But France won’t be among the world’s strongest if the cuts planned by the Hollande administration are planned.
That’s because the muscle of the French military – the very capabilities that constitute France’s military power – will be cut dramatically, on top of all the reckless cuts made by the Sarkozy administration. For example:
- The number of combat aircraft of the entire French military will be cut from 300 to just 225; the Air Force itself will have only 180! The lowest number since the FAF was founded in 1934!
- The fleet of airlift aircraft will be cut from 70 to 50, and that of tankers from 14 to 12.
- The Navy will get only eight, rather than eleven, FREMM (Aquitane) class frigates, and two Cassard class DDGs will be retired without replacement.
- The number of heavy tanks will be cut from 254 to just 200.
The very muscle of the French military will be cut deeply from today’s already inadequate levels.
The two military officers did admit, during the parade, that the French military had serious airlift, air refueling, and logistics shortfalls during the first several months of the French intervention in Mali and had to rely on the US, the UK, Canada, and others. Yet, they tried to pooh-pooh these serious shortfalls by pretending that allies will always be there to plug the gap. No, they won’t always be. Sometimes, they won’t support France’s interventions for political reasons, and sometimes, they won’t be able to provide support.
There is NO substitute for having one’s own, national, independent airlift, air refueling, and logistics capabilities. If you don’t have them, you are not one of the world’s top military powers and you cannot conduct military operations far from home on your own. Period.
What the Socialists are doing is nothing short of disarming France unilaterally. That’s absolutely unacceptable.