Industry report laments US dominance and calls on government to boost investment

The body representing France's defence industry is calling for more government support in the face of what it calls a US strategy of "global domination" of defence exports.

In its 2004 report, the Cidef group, which combines France's air, army and naval industry associations, blames the industry's recent poor export performance on three elements: the huge investment in defence in the USA, which benefits US weapons exports; the development of "very aggressive" competition from new exporters such as China, Israel and South Africa; and finally the general reduction of global military procurement budgets.

Cidef president Luc Vigneron wants France to renew investment in defence technologies, which he sees as essential if it is to remain a "pillar" of the European defence industry. He calls for a "strategic initiative" supporting the export effort by the French government and industry "which takes account of the methods used by France's main competitors".

This should he says, include a full review of the outdated procedures for approving arms exports. "The time taken for approval and the detail required are penalising factors," he adds. The design and development of weapons also needs to take into account "criteria of exportability", with the aim of interesting more potential foreign customers earlier in the design process.

France is involved in several major European weapons programmes, including the Airbus A400Mairlifter, and the Eurocopter Tiger and NH Industries NH90 helicopters, but has had no success in selling its Dassault Rafale multirole fighter, which was designed specifically for the French air force and had no international participation in its design and development.

Research spending has been increasing since 2003 following years of reducing budgets, but according to Cidef funding "remains very far" from the level it said in 2002 was the minimum necessa



Source: Flight International