Record year for French defence exports

France signed an estimated €16bn worth of export contracts in 2015 of which five were each worth over €500m. The definitive figure will be released at the end of May but Laurent Collet-Billon, the director of France’s DGA procurement agency, was confident that the €8.20bn registered in 2014 would be almost doubled in 2015.

Laurent Collet-Billon, director of France's DGA procurement agency.

Laurent Collet-Billon, director of France’s DGA procurement agency.

The vast majority, 80%, of the contracts that came into force in 2015 concerned the Africa/Middle East zone with Egypt buying 24 Rafale combat aircraft, the Tahya Misr FREMM multi-mission frigate and two BPC helicopter landing docks (those very two that had been built for Russia) while Qatar also bought 24 Rafales.

Collet-Billon, speaking to the media on 10 February for the release of the DGA’s 2015 figures, said the future stake for the agency was “to win more and more export [orders]” and he revealed that in order to do so he would recruit some 160 people this year specifically to help support the export effort and another 340 by 2020. The DGA currently employs 9,700 people but Collet-Billon stressed that it was “165,000 men and women” whose jobs depended on the defence industry.

The DGA also spent a lot of money in 2015: it had a budget of €11bn of which the last €3bn were spent in one week at the end of December. “We had €6 left,” laughed Collet-Billon, stressing that the money was spent with French industry “which we must keep strong and competitive.” And the R&D budget of €852m was spent to the last cent.

The biggest beneficiary of DGA contracts was the Airbus Group (€2.05bn), with the DCNS naval group (€1.64bn), Thales (€1.58bn), Dassault (€603m), MBDA (€301m), Nexter (€253m and Renault Trucks (€130) in the top dozen recepients. Thales got the lion’s share (€222m) of the DGA’s R&D spending.