France steps out on path to military reform

The preliminary cost of President Chirac's plans to modernise France's military and defence establishments became clear yesterday when draft legislation was published giving details of the government's six-year reform plan.

As well as providing for the switch to a professional army, the legislation stipulates numerous delays and cuts to existing military equipment programmes, including the joint Franco-German Tiger helicopter project.

In an undisguised attempt to ward off dissent inside the armed forces, the defence minister, Charles Millon, accompanied publication of the draft law with a lengthy letter to all military personnel, listing improvements to retirement, redeployment and voluntary redundancy terms. Pay rises were promised for those who stayed on.

Among delays and cuts in equipment programmes are a one-third reduction in orders for new Leclerc tanks, coupled with a reduction of more than half (from 930 to 420) in the number of battle tanks the army will have by 2015. Completion of France's projected new aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is postponed until after 2002; and only two of Dassault's Rafale fighter jets are to be bought before 2002, although the order for a total of 45 stands. The first deliveries of Tiger helicopters are postponed from 2001 to 2003, and the order cut by almost half, from 215 to 110. France had already announced that it was pulling out of the European Future Large Aircraft project.

The cuts are intended to keep credits budgeted for the defence sector - operations and equipment - down to 185bn francs (pounds 24bn) a year between now and 2002, a reduction of Ffr20bn compared with 1995.

The draft legislation presented yesterday is envisaged as the first part of a two-phase defence modernisation plan, which is to be completed by 2015.

As well as the switch to a professional army, the first phase of the reforms includes restructuring of the armed forces to facilitate rapid overseas deployment and joint operations with European and Nato units, and a rationalisation of the defence industries to improve their competitiveness on the international market.

Together, the reforms are described as "the most important since the reforms of 1958, under General de Gaulle".

Professionalisation and restructuring will entail a loss of about one- third in armed forces manpower, the bulk of the 150,000 reduction coming from the army. A decision is expected later this month on whether conscription will be abolished or replaced by a different form ofcompulsory national service.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore