Hailed by London as a new chapter in their relations, under a newly agreed joint military force and an equipment-sharing arrangement, NATO allies the UK and France have consigned their traditional military rivalry to the past. Why?
Cutting edge capacity is costly. London’s goal is an eight percent defence budget cut. Paris wants to downsize by 54,000 jobs.
France and Britain agreed to set up a joint army contingent with air and sea support. The typical NATO standard brigade is 5,000 troops, but this can vary. It would assemble as needed. This could be for NATO, European Union, United Nations or bilateral operations. Downing Street said the British and French aim is to ‘increase capacity jointly and as sovereign operators, able to do more things alone’.
Nuclear research and simulation centres will be shared for the next half century. While exploding nuclear devices is banned, warhead testing is done in laboratories. French and British scientists will cooperate at a facility each on the others’ soil. The two countries are the EU’s only nuclear military powers.
France’s aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and a British carrier that is being built will be made compatible so that each country could fly its planes off the other’s ship. The intention will be to keep one of them at sea at all times.
London and Paris have been negotiating with Airbus to maintain their future fleet of A400M military transport planes. The pilots and crews will follow common training.
The two governments will each invest 50 million euros per year in research and development projects. Priority areas are satellites, drones and electronic warfare systems, including those carried aboard ship.
London has said that sharing sophisticated and expensive military capabilities should allow Britain and France to continue to project force on the world stage.