French military cuts thousands of jobs to go high tech

France is to cut tens of thousands of defence jobs as part of a new strategy aimed at adapting the country’s forces to new threats.

France is to cut tens of thousands of defence jobs as part of a new strategy aimed at adapting the country’s forces to new threats.

President Nicolas Sarkozy will present the plan – the biggest review in 14 years – to military and security officials tomorrow.

It calls for leaner but more high-tech fighting forces that can quickly deploy to battlefields in evolving conflicts from Afghanistan to Africa.

It is a long-term plan that seeks to defend France better over the next 15 years, and its effects may take years to be felt.

The document confirms France’s interest in eventually returning to Nato’s military command and its plans to work for a stronger European Union defense policy. Mr Sarkozy discussed both at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

The strategy, which goes to parliament later this month, foresees no expansion of France’s nuclear forces though says they will remain the country’s “life insurance.”

France has one of the world’s major military forces but the average age of its ships is 21 years and its Puma helicopters and Transall aeroplanes are “worn down to the tread,” defence minister Herve Morin said today.

“Our military tool must adapt to globalization and to new threats,” he said.

He called for more investment in anti-terrorist intelligence and technology to prevent cyber attacks. He warned of shifting “centres of gravity” in the fight against nuclear proliferation.

Mr Morin defended the new strategy against criticism that it would weaken France by cutting personnel and closing little-used military facilities.

The plan foresees 54,000 job cuts over the next six or seven years, largely from support and logistics teams. The total French military force today, including gendarmes, is believed to be about 350,000.

The plan anticipates around £250bn (€317bn) in military spending until 2020. That would keep defence spending at about two percent of GDP.

It would nearly double investment in space intelligence, including spy satellites. Military intelligence would also be boosted by more surveillance drones and other new equipment.

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