How can the French army overcome a critical power gap?

Two Transall C-160 Gabriels dedicated to the intelligence of electromagnetic sources are initially withdrawn from 2022 “problem”, former Delegate General for Armaments Joel Barr speculated in early May during a Senate hearing. Known for several months, this capacity hole is entirely anticipated by the Air Force. Frédéric Parisot, the Air Force’s number two general, reminded us of this at a recent hearing in the National Assembly. “I am responsible for closing Transol Gabriel and I estimate this: Ten Transols cost us more than 80 million euros per year, for 20% availability. Instead of making cuts elsewhere, I chose to remove them from service”, she explains. It is clean, clear, precise and without wooden language. It is also true that Transalls were acquired by France 1967, 55 years ago…

Limited choice, non-stretchable budget

This decision to withdraw the two Transall C-160 Gabriels is usually the result of limited choices made by the Army. Despite real increases in capabilities since 2017, current Chiefs of Staff (Land, Air and Sea) must address capability shortfalls programmed by their predecessors, or plan new ones due to lack of adequate budgets. France does not have the capacity to finance everything, and at all very quickly, except for a few operational emergencies identified in terms of external operations (OPEX), which could generate potential political repercussions.

The military must therefore spread its investments to fit the “comforter” of its capability needs into a limited budget suitcase. So this is a complete but “sample” army model. This is the case with the two Transal C-160 Gabriels, which were nevertheless one of France’s most important operational capabilities for OPEX. A power that allows you to negotiate with the United States. VSThese assets contribute to the intelligence missions of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) and the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE).

Air Force Chief of Staff General Stephen Mill explained this very clearly in his October 2021 hearing before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee senators on the withdrawal of the two Transal C-160 Gabriels. “We have tried within the framework of the construction of the Finance Bill (PLF) to save wherever possible and thus fund the availability and re-equipment of the Rafale,” he said., he confirmed. Why this choice? for Save an essential base for Rafale bioactivity”The Air Force and Space chief of staff explained to the National Assembly in October. And, thus, the two Transall C-160 Gabriels will be withdrawn from service ahead of schedule from 2022. This withdrawal of the C-160 Gabriel is reasonable given the prohibitive MCO costs (maintenance in operational condition, editor’s note) that is a “model” fleet.

“We knew we had to A capability gap was faced between the end of service for the C-160s and the delivery of its successor, the Archangel (a new generation payload intelligence aircraft), which should enter service in 2026, explained Gen. Stephen Mill..

How will the Army overcome this capability gap?

According to Air Force Maj. Gen. Frédéric Parisot, two transal C-160 capabilities “partially covered” by ASTAC nacelle (Thales), aimed at strategic electronic re-monitoring of the electromagnetic environment and an area of ​​operationThe Air Force has four AWACS and ALSR (light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft). The 2019-2025 Military Programming Act calls for a fleet of eight aircraft in service in the Air Force by 2030. The Air Force chief explained to the Senate in October 2021 that he C-160 is more reasonable to increase the delay between Gabriel and ArchangelAs far as intelligence capabilities are concerned in part ALSRs, Reaper, CERES satellites that will be launched in 2022, will be provided by the ASTAC mission”. This makes France partially dependent on American systems (Reaper drones, ALSR planes).

The CERES program, a constellation of three satellites with space electromagnetic intelligence capabilities, provides very regular data to the Air Force, with satellites passing over the same point every hour. It is Europe’s first satellite-based signal intelligence (ROEM) system. The system is currently in the commissioning phase, with the first data transmitted during the Ukrainian crisis. “It will be ripe by the end of summer”, believed General Frédéric Parisot. Additionally, the General Delegate of Armaments last May assured compensation for the speedy withdrawal of the Transal C-160 Gabriel and the delay in the DGA’s archchange program. Expedited deployment of ALSR”A platform developed by Beechcraft (Raytheon).

Additionally, the Air Force has invited tenders for an interim capability. It will be a Saab 340 type aircraft, twin-engine turboprop, capable of seven to eight hour missions. “Its next-generation sensors will give us a very attractive interim capability. Its rental will allow us to change quickly with service providers if better quality sensors come to market, which is very important.”he said.

Finally, the Air Force is also committed to maintaining the knowledge of the teams. Some Air Force personnel were transferred to ALSR, “Which allows us to benefit from their expertise in communications intelligence (COMINT) – radio and telephone”, Argument Major General. Others, who can be counted on the fingers of both hands, are assigned to the Center for Military Air Expertise (CEAM) within the Archangel brand team. “Tiling with the archangel, a powerful machine when it enters service in 2026”. However, in this case, human resources are required Multiplied by four to take into account Transall Gabriel’s replacement by drones, ALSRs and Archange. To meet this need, the scope of recruitment has been widened and opened to non-commissioned air technicians.

Ambassador program delay

The main god program (New Generation Payload Intelligence Aircraft) The three Dassault Aviation Falcon 8Xs are based on a Universal Electronic Warfare Capability (CUGE) developed by Thales. The order for the first two aircraft was notified on December 30, 2019 According to LPM 2019-2025, three systems will replace two Transall C-160 Gabriels. A ground training platform planned for deployment at Évreux Air Base will complete the system. LPM provides a first system for delivery to the Air Force From the ambassador From 2025. But the program has been delayed.

The successor to the C-160 Gabriel, the Archangel system, is best expected in 2026.”, General Stefan Mill warned during a hearing in the National Assembly in October 2021. What Joel Barr vaguely confirmed in the Senate earlier in May: “I amE deployment, replacement of the archangel It will take some time. We are in the process of confirming the start of production of this aircraft.”.

The level of performance expected from the Falcon Archange requires highly advanced integration work with the knowledge centers of Dassault Aviation and Thales. However, the DGA had some concerns earlier in the year about the development of this heavier aircraft compared to the civilian cell. So much so that the DGA has questioned Dassault Aviation’s ability to manufacture this aircraft as per our information. But the aircraft manufacturer was able to overcome all development difficulties. In the business jet version, this tri-jet can carry eight passengers and three crew members over a distance of 12,000 km.