by Nathan Gain and Christina Mackenzie
On 17th February the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission of the French National Assembly held its first hearing of a director of the technical section of the French Army (known by its French acronym: STAT). General Charles Beaudouin, current director of the STAT which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, described the institution’s activities over the past year before outlining his objectives for 2016 and describing the STAT’s challenges in the upcoming years.
The STAT, as described by the General, “is at the heart of armament programmes from the first expression of a need, through what one might call the orientation stage, right up to the withdrawal from service. Furthermore, the STAT is the only technical-operational expert that holds the competencies which allow the Army Chief of Staff (CEMAT) to assume his tasks within the Joint Chief of Staff of proposing capacities and putting them into operational service.” He added that “in this framework, the director of the STAT holds the role of armament advisor to the CEMAT.”
The STAT has three principal missions: the first is to make sure that the equipment proposed by the company which has won a DGA contract “meets the operational requirement.”
The second includes the “reactive” adaptation, if necessary, of materiel in service and, if necessary, proposing that new equipment be acquired through a crash programme. Finally, the STAT monitors new technologies, evaluates off-the-shelf systems, explores future systems and supports exports. In order to accomplish these missions the STAT has, as at February 2016, a staff of 640, a quarter of whom are civilians. They manage “about 15 major programmes and more than 400 so-called simplified armament operations,” Beaudouin said.
Because no major acquisition contracts were signed between 2011 and 2013 there is, de facto, a pause in the delivery of major equipment to the army between 2014 and 2017 with the notable exception of more deliveries of Tiger and NH90 helicopters and the PPT multipurpose military trucks ordered prior to 2011. Nevertheless, deliveries of equipment to ensure the coherence of current operations continue.
In 2015 the STAT delivered, amongst other things, a helicopter-borne command post, which allows a joint mission to be digitally commanded, that has been deployed in the Sahelo-Saharan region since last month. In the close combat sector the STAT focussed on the lighter version of the FELIN (dismounted soldier with data-linked integrated equipment) soldier modernisation system, and finishing the NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) protection outfit for soldiers; the first 32-ton versions of the VBCI armoured infantry combat vehicle were delivered, and remote-controlled 7.62mm weapon stations were installed on the VBLs (light armoured vehicles) and PVPs (small protected vehicles). “These will be deployed in the upcoming weeks in the Sahelo-Saharan region,” Beaudouin added.
Likewise, the single rocket-launcher has just undertaken its first mission abroad in Tessalit (Mali) in the framework of the Barkhane mission. The COP21 (environmental conference held in Paris last December) was an occasion to gain solid anti-RPAS (remotely piloted air-system) operational experience. There has also been the progressive entry into service of the VAB Ultima Génie and VAB Valorisés Génie troop transport vehicles and a new anti-IED (improvised explosive device) RPAS was licensed for use. The STAT also qualified the CASA 235 aircraft for parachute jumping and air drops to counter delays in the A400 transport aircraft programme.
Following on from these projects, the STAT has started 2016 with a long list of requests and programmes which we’ll tell you about tomorrow.