Gilbert Sedbon/PARIS

DELIVERIES OF Dassault Aviation's Rafale combat aircraft, the Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter and the NH90 troop transport and anti-submarine-warfare helicopter are to be delayed as part of cuts in French military spending over the next five years.

On 21 September, the Government unveiled a reduction in 1996 weapons procurement of more than Fr8 billion ($1.5 billion), as part of its plan to reduce overall spending (Flight International, 27 September-3 October).

Details of the resulting cuts in the defence budget are now starting to emerge. These show that, apart from the major aviation-programme delays, the austerity measures will mean that completion of the navy's nuclear-powered aircraft-carrier, the Charles de Gaulle - already six months behind schedule - will be put back a year. The vessel will not go into operational service until the second half of 1999. As a result, delivery to the naval fleet air arm of its first Rafale will be postponed until then.

Air force Rafales, are not expected to be delivered before the beginning of the next century - although, modernisation of 23 of its Mirage 2000 DA fighters into the new Mirage 2000-5 RDY version will go ahead in 1996.

The Tiger attack helicopter, built in partnership with Germany, and the NH90 helicopter programme (involving France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands) are to continue, but French deliveries will be delayed. Negotiations with international partners have yet to be completed, and are expected to lead to delays in the programmes generally. Studies on the Future Large Aircraft are not affected.

Spending on space programmes is on the increase, to allow construction of the Helios1B surveillance satellite following the successful launch of the Helios 1A in July. Studies of the Helios 2 day/night radar satellite continue, but this programme may be delayed pending negotiations, primarily with Germany, but also with Italy and Spain.

The defence ministry has confirmed that 1996 spending for equipment procurement will be Fr94.9 billion, a drop of 10.1% compared with plans in the earlier five-year defence budget.

Source: Flight International