France and UK To Combine Defense Resources
France and the UK signed a wide-ranging defense pact with far-reaching consequences for operational and industrial policy. The two countries will create an integrated carrier strike group and coordinate refits to ensure that one British or French aircraft carrier is always operational. The pact will lead to cross-decking of French and British aircraft and helicopters, including the UK’s F-35s and French Rafales, now that the UK has decided to abandon the STOVL method of carrier operation for combat jets. The French Air Force is being invited to join the UK Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) program, rather than buy its own Airbus A330MRTTs. The two countries will pool resources for the training and support of their Airbus A400M airlifters. They have also agreed to a “10-year strategic plan” for “complex weapons,” meaning guided missiles and bombs, that will encourage MBDA, Thales and Sagem to join forces as part of a move toward “a single European prime contractor” for these capabilities.
The Anglo-French Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty also provides for the joint maintenance of nuclear warheads; the creation of a 9,000-strong joint expeditionary force covering all three domains; and joint UAV programs.