“My priority is equipment” stressed General Jean-Pierre Bosser, chief of staff of the French army at a press conference held after the French army show, on the Nexter Systems site in Versailles-Satory, to the west of Paris.
Whilst confirming the continuity of engagements taken by the French government, the chief of staff defended the need to shift from being an army of people to an army of materiel by surfing on the inversion of the tendency in defence budgets. General Bosser notably evoked a “reflexion on something that could modify the delivery timetable” of the Scorpion programme. He thus foresees a “strong Scorpion capability” for 2020 and the creation of a “third Scorpion brigade by 2025” in addition to the two brigades initially planned for.
The Scorpion programme “demonstrates how the army is organising itself for the upcoming years,” the chief of staff explained, before insisting on the need for “an organised, well-equipped army.” Pragmatically, he presented “an army which has reached its maturity” and is designed not “to beat [the enemy] but to dominate it.”
The army air-wing, the ALAT, has not been forgotten with the replacement of a 40-year old fleet of Gazelles by 80 future light joint helicopters (known by its French acronym HIL) now a “major urgency.” The Gazelles, which entered service in the 1970s are “extremely available but have become rustic” to the point at which “making them work in tandem with the NH90 Caiman and the Tiger is like trying to have a moped keep up with a Porsche,” the General remarked.
The human being remains at the heart of concerns, as Bosser confirmed when evoking the recent setting up of a National Guard which “underscores the need for reservists.” The army, centred on external theatres of operation since 1996, is rediscovering its own national territory in the context of operation Sentinelle “and thus a necessary adaptation.” There are almost 450 reservists daily on the ground in France but “the aim is to reach 1,000 reservists a day,” he explained. The National Guard is also justified by the need to integrate “those who know the terrain.” Thus one-third of Sentinelle commanders are local reservists: “people who don’t need maps to go on a mission,” the army chief of staff said.