The French Navy is getting antsy about tech upgrades in its fleet – DefenseNews.com

PARIS — Senior French navy leaders said the service needs quick technology buys that can instantly boost ship performance in the face of a rising possibility for combat at sea.
French Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Pierre Vandier argued on Monday the service must field upgrades on much shorter development cycles than has traditionally been the case. He was speaking at a colloquium here organized by the French naval industry group GICAN (Groupement des Industries de Construction et Activités Navales). The event served as a curtain raiser for the 38th biennial Euronaval trade conference, scheduled for Oct. 18-22 outside Paris.
Vandier and other officers warned that France and its allies must be better prepared for maritime warfare, as global supply ships, data transfers, and critical materials all pass through the domain. After three decades of relative maritime peace, incidents such as the sinking of Russian ships in its war on Ukraine, the rise of China’s navy and the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines have thrown the need for strong navies into sharp relief, they argued.
The French Navy has begun preparing for a new era of high-intensity war, where battles may be fought underwater on the sea bed, in the air, in space or on the surface. Officials are looking to take advantage of breakthroughs in technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial, surface, and underwater systems, and space-based capabilities. But sailors can no longer wait 15 years for new capabilities to be developed, said Rear Adm. Éric Malbrunot, deputy chief of naval operations for plans and programs.
Instead, upgrades should be performed in incremental development cycles, and standalone capabilities such as off-the-shelf unmanned systems can serve as capability boosters, he said.
The French Navy needs capabilities that will still work even if parts of a ship’s central combat system break down, according to Vandier. Manufacturers must pivot from developing “fail safe” systems to “safe to fail” systems, he urged. “Plug and fight”-type equipment will act as force multipliers in a high-intensity war scenario, Vandier predicted.
The technological advancements presently in development – from artificial intelligence to cyber capabilities to drones – offer “magnificent opportunities” to modernize the service and ensure its operational superiority, said Emmanuel Chiva, director of the French military procurement office Delegation Générale de l’Armement (DGA) during the colloquium. The challenge, he noted, comes down to cost.
“As a decision-maker, I cannot ignore the reality and the weight of this constraint,” he said.
Chiva, who took the helm of the DGA this summer, said a new “strategic vision” for the procurement office is in progress, which will be released in late 2022 or early 2023. The strategy will reveal the DGA’s “road map” for designing more holistic defense systems “on the scale of capabilities, rather than program by program.” The goal is to encourage the introduction of new solutions, faster, he added.
Another goal for the strategic vision is to transform the DGA from serving merely as a contracting authority to becoming a prime contractor itself, “with end-to-end control of our defense system,” Chiva said.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.
Defense News © 2022
Defense News © 2022

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