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Having started in 1996, there are still two years to go before the French Army completes its process of "restructuration" and professionalization to be funded under the 1997-2002 military programming law. While requiring the retention of a full spectrum of capabilities from warfighting ("coercition des forces") to operations other than war ("maitrise de la violence"), the law's objective has essentially been to change the orientation of the armed forces from one of deterrence to one of action, possessing the attendant rapid external deployment capability needed for crisis prevention. The process will see its army personnel cut from 236,000 troops (including 132,000 conscripts) divided between three corps each of three divisions, to 138,000 mostly regular troops (16,000 officers; 50,000 NCOs; 66,500 other ranks; and 5,500 short-service volunteers) divided for administrative purposes between 10 maneuver brigades (including the Franco-German brigade) and six specialist brigades (logistics, signals, artillery, engineer and intelligence). They will be supported by a 34,000-strong permanent civilian workforce. All told, the planned force levels are intended to be sufficient to support a maximum force of 50,000 troops committed to a major NATO-led (Article V) high-intensity operation in Europe
According to Marescaux, there are now three areas of equipment priority, "the first two of which are inexpensive compared with the third." The first priority is information systems, particularly in relation to interoperability of HQs, a European-wide problem. Ideally there would be a single international system, but he said it would be unrealistic to expect it to be French. The second priority is intelligence systems, and the third is "everything that might be required by crisis reaction forces", in the way of protection, precision weaponry and air mobility.
Protection covers such things as armored vehicles and ballistic protection (such as the French Army's FELIN soldier modernization system, and the 600 Véhicules de Combat d'Infanterie [VCIs] it is planning to buy at FFr13 million apiece) and air defense (Roland improvements and SAMP). "We are still studying the trade-offs between munitions such as the Bonus and laser-guided projectiles in the class of Krasnopol, or fiber-optic missiles like the TRIFOM project. We are a bit short of support helicopters. The Super Pumas are wearing out faster than anticipated as a result of the higher optempo we now have to deal with. The current programming law does not envisage introduction of the successor NH90 helicopter until 2010, with the first units going to the Navy.  
Joint exercises and training have gone up by a factor of three or four, though mostly at operational or strategic levels. Operations are conducted on a joint basis, under the aegis of the joint chiefs of staff (CEMA = Chef d'État Major des Armées), and there has been joint procurement and joint formulation of operational requirements in the last three years .'' In multinational operations we desirably do not operate at levels below a brigade - in low-intensity situations you can mix battalions within a brigade, but at medium level we say the smallest national unit should be a brigade, and in high intensity operations a division." The Franco-German brigade is an exception, being trained for high-intensity warfare. "Most of us know that such mixing is not the most efficient way in operational terms, but it is certainly effective at the political level." Nonetheless it would go to war as a brigade, he said, noting its operational language is now English, and that its fire support arrangements "really work".To judge from the assessments of those foreign contingents alongside which the French Army now serves, French troops have been returning highly creditable performances on operations. These they have achieved despite current upheavals and anomalies, and by their own reckoning they should get better yet - provided the circle of politics, economics,commitments and resources can be squared.

Equipment of the French Army :

Main Battle Tanks :

- Leclerc 

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The Leclerc was first operational with the French Army in 1992 and with UAE in 1995. Leclerc Mk 2 tanks with improved software and engine control system entered production in 1998. The French Army has over 200 Leclerc MBT s in service and in September 2001 ordered the final tranche of 52, concluding a total order of 406.The principal armament is a gun of 120 mm with a smooth bore and a length of 52 calibers, drawing all types of ammunition with combustible casings with standard NATO. A total of 40 shells can be embarked, including 22 in automatic loading. The secondary armament is one 12.7 mm machine-gun and one 7.62 mm machine-gun in the superstructure.

- AMX-30B2

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Giat Industries has built and delivered to a dozen armies almost 2,300 AMX 30 main battle tanks, as well as many derivative versions (155 GCT self-propelled howitzers, anti-aircraft missile or gun systems, armoured recovery vehicles, etc.). The AMX 30 B2 is an improved version of the AMX 30, either by rebuilding or by production of new tanks, equipped with an automatic fire control system (COTAC) enabling it to fire a ammunition arrow (Vo 1525 m/s). The tank is well profiled, strongly armed, endowed with a very good mobility and a great autonomy. It is protected only from small gauge weapons and the effects of artillery. The AMX 30 B2 is able to fight in a contaminated atmosphere and to cross in immersion of the water levels 2 depth m (4 m with snorkel). It is intended for all missions requiring operations in traditional or nuclear environments power: direct destruction of the enemy forces, and in priority of the armoured forces immediate and major exploitation of the effects of the others weapons, in particular of the nuclear weapon.It is encased in rolled plates and castings, entirely welded; traditional turret, entirely cast, of very shaped form.

Light Tanks :

- ERC 90 Sagaie

erc90_cat1g.jpg (54806 bytes) The ERC 90 is a light armoured vehicle with 6 wheels, armed with a 90-mm gun. With good mobility terrestrial and watery, it can fight in contaminated atmosphere and is transportable by air by Transall. It is intended for safe reconnaissance missions in traditional or nuclear environments. It is equiped to carry out anti-tank missions. The case and turret consist of tack welded steel plates: field of fire in direction: 360 field of fire in height: -8 with +15 pointing in site and layer ensured by electric drives. Direction is provided by observation glasses and firing direction by a laser system of telemetry.

- AMX 10RC

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The AMX 10RC is a medium weight reconnaissance vehicle armed with a 105 mm cannon. The vehicle, supplied by Giat, has been in service with the French army since 1980.300 French Army vehicles are being upgraded with new engine and transmission, a battlefield management information system (developed by Giat and EADS company Aerospatiale Matra Systemes), the Galix self-protection system and new PR4G radios from Thales (formerly Thomson-CSF). Deliveries will begin in 2003 and the upgrade is intended to maintain the operational capability of the vehicles until 2015-2020.There are two turret configurations for the AMX 10RC: the TK 105 turret with light 105 mm gun or the TML 105 turret with 105 mm NATO standard gun, both manufactured by Giat Industries.

Armoured Personnel Carriers :


vbcib.gif (28004 bytes) Late last year, the French DGA awarded Giat Industries and Renault Véhicules Industriels a combined development and production contract for 700 new 8 x 8 infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) to operate with the Leclerc tank.To handle this larger programme, Giat Industries and RVI have formed a new company called Satory Military Vehicles.The current French Army name for the ICV is the VBCI. Under current plans, at least 550 will be built, plus 150 command post vehicles. The former will have a combat weight of 26 tonnes and be fitted with the latest Giat Industries Dragar one-person turret, armed with a 25mm cannon and 7.62mm machine gun. In addition to the driver and vehicle commander/gunner, it will carry nine fully equipped troops who will dismount via a power-operated ramp at the hull rear.It is expected that the first prototype of the ICV will be completed in the second half of 2003, with production starting in 2004/2005.

- AMX-10P

amx10p_cat2g.jpg (27521 bytes) The AMX 10 P is the support and freight vehicle of the mechanized infantry units, and the tank carried squadrons of the combat regiments. This tracked amphibious armoured vehicle transports a group of 9 men in addition to the driver and gunner under turret. It has a great autonomy and an excellent terrestrial and water mobility which allow it, in particular, to cross by its own means a flooded cut. Its armament enables it to intervene effectively against light armoured tanks and low flying aircraft. Protected against weapons from average gauge and the shrapnel of artillery shell, it can fight in contaminated atmosphere. Crew: 2 men (1 conductor and 1 gunner) remain on board after the unloading of a group whose leader also serves as commander of the vehicle.


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The VAB (Vehicule de l'Avant Blinde) front-line armoured vehicle is an Infantry Corps tactical armoured vehicle from the Euro Mobilite Division of Giat Industries with headquarters at Versailles in France.The French Army has a fleet of almost 4,000 VAB vehicles.The French Army has constantly carried out VAB enhancement programmes. Experience from combat has lead to the implementation of more than 1,100 improvements resulting in the design of the VAB New Generation (VAB NG).The vehicle can be fitted with a selection of weapon systems including a 12.7 mm or 25 mm Dragar turret, an anti-tank missile launcher turret or a variety of mortar systems.


vbl_cat2g.jpg (60100 bytes) The Vèhicule Blindè Legèr (VBL) corresponds to a new tactical need with wheels discrete and general-purpose having amphibians and NBC capacities. It is conceived to combine with the agility of the jeep a sufficient protection against the battlefield and the dangers of NBC attack. The VBL is planned for two versions: reconnaissance and anti-tank combat. It must be able to carry out in an autonomous way the missions of reconnaissance and infiltration, and to ensure the environment of the future. The version with anti-tank devices will be capable of shooting MILAN with 6 missiles, 7.62 mm automatic arms with 2000 rounds, or 7.62 mm automatic arms with 3000 rounds.

Artillery Systems :

- LRM multiple launched rocket system

lrm_cat4g.jpg (63195 bytes) The Lance-Roquettes Multiple (LRM) multiple lanch rocket system is a complete unit including a launcher, adapted ammunition, systems of management and data transmission, as well as specific means of acquisition.The launcher of the LRM can contain twelve rockets, or two ATACMS missiles. A whole of electronic cases specialized in fact a modular system of simple design and easy support..

- AUF 1/2 155mm self-propelled howitzer

auf1_cat8g.jpg (40255 bytes) The 155-mm automatic cannon AUF-1 is intended to equip forces with armoured artillery to ensure the missions of support of direct and indirect fire. The 155-mm gun is assembled from a turret on the chasis of the AMX 30, providing mobility close to that of this battle tank. The range of the gun of 39 calibers makes it possible to reach 23.5 km with normal ammunition and 30 km with wide range ammunition. The system can as well fire all the ammunition of 155 mm, French as foreign. Its normal ammunition is the high-explosive shell with hollow base.

- CAESAR 155mm self-propelled howitzer

caesars.jpg (34499 bytes) The Caesar truck mounted artillery system is a 155 mm 52 calibre self-propelled gun developed by Giat Industries based in Versailles, in co-operation with Lohr Industrie of Hangenbieten, France. The system has completed its qualification phase and has been ordered by the French Army, who are to order an initial 5 systems.The Caesar artillery system evolved from the earlier 155 AM F3 automotive gun, which used the chassis of the AMX-13 light tank. Caesar is equipped with all the systems needed for independent operation, a cabin to protect the six man gun crew against shell fragments and small arms fire, an initial ammunition supply of 16 complete rounds and instrumentation for navigation, aiming, ballistic calculations and command aids. The system was specifically designed to meet the fire support requirements of rapid deployment forces.

- TRF 1 - 155mm towed artillery

trf1_cat3g.jpg (80694 bytes) The artillery gun 155 TRact頭odel F1, intended to equip regiments of infantry, is characterized by good strategic mobility, great fire power, and a simple implementation. This rapid-fire 155 mm gun is a double trail configuration with a swivelling platform. Its barrel of 40 calibers is the same one as that is used on the 155 mm AUF vehicle.The maximum range is of 24 km with the high-explosive shells Mle F1, 30 km are envisaged with ammunition with extended range.The gun can fire all French ammunition as well as foreign rounds.

Air-Defense :

- Roland 2MR Trigat

roland2_cat2g.jpg (23438 bytes) The Roland short range air defence missile system is produced by Euromissile. Roland entered service with the French Army in 1977, and is in service with ten countries.French Army systems are mounted on vehicles based on the AMX-30 main battle tank.The Roland system is effective against air threats from extremely low to medium altitude. It is available as a standalone weapon system on a single vehicle or as an airliftable shelter, Roland Carol. Roland Carol has been in production since 1995 with 20 systems delivered to the French Army.

Helicopters :

- Tiger HAP/HAC

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The Tiger helicopter is being developed in three configurations, HAC (French) and UHT (German) anti-tank helicopters and a combat support helicopter designated HAP for the French Army. Tiger is being built by Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the EADS.France has ordered 80 aircraft (70 combat support and 10 antitank), with deliveries to commence in 2003.Total procurement is planned to be 215.Both Tiger HAC and UHT anti-tank helicopters have an Osiris mast-mounted sight from SFIM, with infrared charge coupled device (IRCCD) camera and laser rangefinder. There is a nose-mounted forward looking infra-red (FLIR) with a 40 x 30 degree field of view.Tiger can be equipped with four MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics) MISTRAL or Raytheon Stinger air-to-air missiles.The Tiger is armed with Euromissile HOT 3 and Euromissile TRIGAT LR anti-tank missiles, fired by the gunner.The combat support Tiger helicopter for the French Army (Tigre HAP) is equipped with a 30 mm AM-30781automatic cannon from Giat. Rate of fire is 750 rounds per minute. Tigre HAP also carries four Mistral missiles and two pods each carrying twenty two SNEB 68 mm rockets.

- AS341 Gazelle

atam_cat4g.jpg (20142 bytes) The Eurocopter/Aerospatiale SA 341/342 Gazelle is a French built light utility helicopter which was first flown in 1967. Military missions include attack, antitank, antihelicopter, reconnaissance, utility, transport, and training. Of the current service types, the Gazelles have the most teeth; the ALAT operates the type with the Mistral air-to-air missile, the HOT anti-tank weapon and large caliber cannon. 
Almost all Gazelles are operated by the Force D'Action Rapidae which is subdivided into regiments, which in turn are split into combat, anti-tank and transport flights. 

- AS555 Fennec

PV13960b.jpg (105152 bytes) The AS 550 C3 is the combat version of the single-engine Fennec. It is fitted with sliding doors, a raised landing gear, an instrument panel adapted to tactical flight and provisions for night flight with night vision goggles. It can be fitted with axial weapons such as a 20-mm gun, pod-mounted rocket launchers, a gun, a side-firing machine gun, or in the anti-tank or air-air version, it can carry 4 missiles. The AS 555 UN and AS 555 AN are the land versions of the twin-engine Fennec. The AS 555 UN is particularly intended for reconnaissance/observation missions, IFR training. The AS 555 AN is the armed version. It can be fitted with the same weapons equipping the AS 550 C3.

- AS532 UL Cougar/HORIZON

 AS532 Cougar

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The Cougar was designed to provide high performance, ease of deployment, low operating cost, comfort, plus high mission readiness.A multirole helicopter, the Cougar can be armed with machine-guns and pod-mounted cannons, with rockets. AS 532 Cougar Mk I UL/AL is the "long" version which can carry up to 25 commandos.

The Horizon system, Helicoptere d'Observation Radar et d'Investigation sur Zone, is operational with the French Army. The helicopter surveillance system was originally developed to counter any possible threat by the tank fleets of the Warsaw Pact countries.

- SA 330 Puma

03865.jpg (62082 bytes) The twin-engined SA 330 Puma was developed initially to meet a French Army requirement for a medium-sized helicoptere de manoeuvre, capable of operating by day and night in all weathers and climates.The payload exceeded that of the specification, the aircraft being capable of carrying 18 troops with full individual armament plus two crew. The first five pre-production aircraft with these characteristics appeared in 1967, all with civil registrations, while the sixth had a different nose, which was standardized on the production aircraft. As a result of the trials programme this compact, efficient aircraft won the approval of the French Army, which ordered 130.

- NH 90 TTH

nh4.jpg (45017 bytes) The TTH version is primarily conceived for tactical transport of personnel (14-20 troops) and material (more than 2500 kg of cargo), heliborne operations and SAR. Additional applications include medevac, special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, VIP transport, flight training.This version is optimised for low signatures (acoustic, radar, infrared). It will be equipped with a night vision system (Forward Looking Infra-Red, Night Vision Goggles, Helmet Mounted Sight & Display). The first French army TTH90 is scheduled to enter service in 2011. A total of 133 helicopters are required but this figure may be reduced.

Sources :

French Army Homepage
Army Technology
FAS : Land Warfare

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