Armée de Terre
The French Ground Forces provide defense against threats to the homeland. The French Army is more likely, however, to be needed for rapid deployment missions in smaller conflicts around Europe's periphery and French overseas territories. At the same time, the capabilities of stealthy aircraft and long-distance air-launched precision munitions raise the profile of the Air Force in many scenarios. French requirements are also designed to create a mobile force with sophisticated weaponry and supporting mobility, command and control, and intelligence assets. This will not only allow French forces to achieve battlefield superiority, but will also reduce the risk of casualties and close the technology gap with the United States.
The army structure combines "decisive" forces, capable of engaging in the fiercest combat, "multi-role" forces destined more to be first in theatre with an element of surprise, and for transition phases and stabilisation operations, and "emergency" forces with a high level of strategic mobility.
With continued efforts toward interoperability and the capability of fitting in with allied systems, the tactical information application systems wwere improved and two major units wwere digitised. An effort was made for means to assist deployment in the field, and terrain development with broader capabilities to deal with the requirements of long-lasting crisis management. These means may also be used to provide aid to population groups within the national territory, in particular for natural or technological catastrophes.
According to the 2008 White Paper, the size of the projectable ground forces required to meet this need was assessed at some 30,000 soldiers deployable within 6 months for a period of one year, without replacement, with full autonomy in the main joint operational functions (close fight, support and logistics). This capability will cover the range from major operation to limited but rapid reaction operation, or a long-term stabilisation operation. The ground forces would need to be able to regenerate the force or reorganise it to take into account changes in the conditions of commitment. France would also maintain an independent reaction or reinforcement capability consisting of a 5,000-strong reserve on permanent operational alert (land forces). Unless they are committed to a large-scale operation, the French ground forces will be able to contribute to a number of stabilisation or peace-keeping operations.
The Army must be able to commit:
- up to 20,000 men, simultaneously for an unlimited period in several theatres, whether in a national operation (1,000 to 5,000 men) or in a European operation (12 to 15,000 men). This level can reach 26,000 for a period of up to one year, taking into account average activity rates of units that do not exceed four months of annual deployment;
- more than 50,000 men, without relief, to take part in a major conflict within the Atlantic Alliance.
- take command of a joint forces land army corps (Land Component Command or LCC);
- provide the framework for a reinforced NATO division (of two or three French joint brigades and one or two allied brigades), with full tactical autonomy in all joint operational functions (contact combat, support);
- organise logistic support for the land component, or for the joint force.
- 8 joint brigades, equipped with some 250 Leclerc-type main battle tanks, some 650 AICV-type armored vehicles, 80 combat helicopters, 130 support helicopters and some 25,000 FELIN-type infantry combat suites;
- 3 specialised brigades;
- The corresponding support resources.
For the 2015 Army model, operational reserve numbers were set at 100,000 persons with the goal of reaching 82,000 in 2008, of which 28,000 would be in the Army and the rest in other services. The system derived from the law of 22 October 1999 makes it possible to replace mass reserves by employment reserves. It is better suited to the new defence assignments through its three principles that form this approach's originality : voluntary service, induction into active forces and partnership between Government, the Reserves and civil employers. The law gives two assignments to the reserves, managed by way of two different components: operational reserves in charge of reinforcing the capabilities of the armed forces, and civil reserves more specifically assigned to maintaining, intensifying and developing the links between defence and society. The operational reserves must be capable of supplying the reinforcements needed to guarantee territorial security when the units are massively posted to outside theatres. In the future they should participate more specifically in the territorial protection and security and in protecting people from risks related both to terrorism and to natural or technological crisis situations.
According to the 2013 White Paper, the Army will include 7 joint brigades: 2 coercive combat brigades, 3 multi-role brigades, 2 light brigades. To ensure its autonomous crisis response capability, France will have a nation-wide emergency command echelon of 5,000 on alert, allowing for the creation of and joint immediate reaction force (FIRI) of 2,300 men. This force will be deployable 3,000 km from the national territory or of implantation abroad, within a period of 7 days. Prior to this period of 7 days, France remains capable of immediate action through aerial means.
The land forces will have units adapted to the diversity, duration, spreading out and hardening of the operations. They will have an operational capacity of 60,000 deployable troops, comprising ground special forces, seven combined arms brigades, support and operational support units, pre-positioned units and those based overseas. The combined arms combat brigades will be formed around three complementary components. Two brigades will be capable of both forcible entry and coercion combat against an opponent equipped with heavy combat means. Three other multipurpose will be primarily equipped with and trained for crisis management. Finally, two light brigades will be able to intervene in specific and difficult environments or very quickly, to complement pre-positioned forces or as part of dedicated emergency modules.
The continuation of the digitization effort along with appropriate operational preparations will ensure consistency between these three components as well as their ability to be mutually reinforcing. These forces will notably have at their disposal approximately 200 heavy tanks, 250 medium tanks [apparently a reference to the AMX-10RC, a 16-ton medium 6x6 armored car mounting a 105-mm cannon on a turret], 2,700 multi-role and combat armored vehicles, 140 reconnaissance and attack helicopters, 115 maneuver helicopters and about 30 tactical UAVs.
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