Three top priority tasks face France's new defence minister, Charles Millon (pronounced Miyon). Described as a decisive man of action, he will have soon to: decide on the withdrawal or maintenance of French troops in the UN peace-keeping force in Bosnia; consider a limited number of underground nuclear tests in the south Pacific, in readiness for the Palen programme of future test simulations; facelift or redraft the 1995-2000 arms-procurement law, possibly abandoning or cutting some of the major programmes. This may affect the Dassault Rafale combat aircraft, the Leclerc heavy tank and other projects.

It will not be an easy task for this 49-year-old stormy petrel, who stood for the Presidency against new president Jacque Chirac and has waged guerrilla warfare against the now ousted socialist governments.

Millon will have to grapple with demands for fresh capital for state-owned Aerospatiale, Snecma and Giat Industries. He will also have to deal with the privatisation of Thomson-CSF and the complex alliances involving Aerospatiale-Daimler Benz missiles and satellites, a project blocked by Chirac supporters who have rejected German leadership, campaigning for a Matra Defense-led European satellite-building venture.

Millon, a convinced European, will negotiate with UK procurement minister Roger Freeman on a memorandum of understanding, covering development of a new strike aircraft to replace the Royal Air Force's Panavia Tornado GR4 and the Armee de l'Air's Dassault Mirage 2000D/E strike aircraft.

Source: Flight International