Despite a fiscal downturn, France is seeking to continue sailing a blue water Navy able to project maritime power on the waves, silently below and by striking from the air.
Budget constraints have led the French Navy to “make choices,” but by 2025, the service will have all the capabilities needed to complete a full range of missions, from defense to security, from high to low intensity, but in a “slightly smaller format,” said Navy spokesman Capt. Didier Piaton.
After the US, France has the second-largest exclusive economic zone, with some 11 million kilometers of seas to police in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, and in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Navy will lose 664 posts in 2015 out of a total 36,000 sailors and after closing down some 500 positions this year. That planned job loss is part of the total 7,500 job cuts next year in the armed forces, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The naval job cuts stem from the decommissioning of five vessels, the Siroco transport ship, Meuse oil tanker and three patrol vessels, and the closing of the small Adour base on the Atlantic coast and an office in Strasbourg, eastern France.
The service has focused its activities in two large bases, Brest in the north and Toulon in the south of France. The most important naval programs include:
■The FREMM multimission warship program. The Navy plans to decide in 2016 on a possible redesign for ships nine, 10 and 11, due for delivery after 2020, two industry executives said.
The three new vessels could be “an intermediate size,” between the 6,000-ton FREMM and a 2,500-ton corvette, the executives said. The ships could be similar to the Lafayette frigate, being lighter and less heavily armed than the FREMM.
The planned seventh and eighth FREMM ships will be air defense versions, for delivery between 2020 and 2022.