2015, an exceptional year for French defence exports

French defence industry export orders more than doubled to a record figure of €16.9bn in 2015 against 2014. Behind these figures lie a number of successes “scored by Team France for defence exports,” according to Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of defence, in the 2016 parliamentary report on armaments’ exports published on 1 June. The detailed, 104-page report gives a good overview of these orders.


2015, an exceptional year for French defence exports. In this table the green represents contracts worth more than €200m (between 1 to 5 contracts per year), the red those worth between €50m and €200m (about 10 contracts a year) and the blue those worth less than €50m (between 2,000 to 5,000 contracts a year). Source: DGA/DI


The historic figure is due to a number of “mega contracts” worth more than €200m, such as the sale of the Rafales to Qatar and Egypt. In 2015, 11 such contracts were signed for a total of €12.9bn, a 184% rise on the previous year. Added to these are the €4bn worth of contracts worth less than €200m, a rise of 12% on 2014, and these form the basic export bread and butter for companies. Unsurprisingly three quarters of the contracts were signed with the Middle East, followed by Asia and Europe.


The report explains that the recipe for success lies in three essential ingredients, starting with the sensitive political context of the customer countries “confronted with the persistence of regional security issues and the emergence of new threats.” But the orders are also the fruit of a “strong engagement by the [French] authorities that strengthens an existing relationship of trust,” adds the report. And the third ingredient is “the quality of French equipment” whose “operational performance is demonstrated daily by French forces engaged on various theatres of operation.” The result is that France could soon join the podium of the world’s biggest arms exporters, currently occupied by the United Sates, Russia and China.


Far from limiting itself to commercial deals, the parliamentary report also gives details of military equipment taken out of French army stocks and either sold or given to countries. Two nations were the principal beneficiaries: Saudi Arabia (five sales worth €8m) and Brazil (two sales worth €5.1m). An interesting detail is that the United States, the unshakeable leader of defence exports, also came to shop in French barracks three times in 2015 and spent €634,000.



The list of countries that either received for free or bought materiel in 2015 from the French Defence Ministry.

2015 is thus an exceptional year for French industry. And the outlook for this to continue in 2016 is favourable as DCNS, the French naval systems group, has just signed a contrat to sell submarines to Australia and that Dassault hopes to finally conclude the sale of Rafale fighter aircraft to India at the end of this month.