France's weapons procurement agency, the DGA, has completed two years of intense reforms and bought the major overbudget defence programmes back on track, according to the organisation's chief, Jean-Yves Helmer.

The DGA handles around 70% of France's total defence budget, and has been forced into tough decisions in response to budget cuts by the government.

Part of the strategy has been to move to multiyear weapons procurement. In 1998, this accounted for 20% of the total Fr64.5 billion ($10 billion)-worth of orders awarded to the French arms industry, including, for example, the PAAMS missile system for the Horizon frigate. This January, a multiyear order for the production of 48 Dassault Rafale fighters was approved by the government.

The DGA also reduced the costs of several programmes significantly, its defence review identifying potential savings of Fr102.7 billion from the Fr541 billion remaining to be spent on the 83 major programmes under way in 1996. Helmer says that the effects of "rigorous programme management, making cost control as important as technical performance" led to savings of Fr16.6 billion in 1998 "without sacrificing any of the significant programmes".

Major decisions expected this year are for the production phase of the four-nation NH90 transport helicopter and development of the seven-nation Airbus Military A400M Future Large Aircraft.

Source: Flight International