PREVIEW-UK, France enter new era of defence cooperation

* Financial pressures drive closer defence partnership

* Carriers, transport aircraft seen as areas for cooperation

By Adrian Croft

LONDON, Oct 31 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain and France embark on a
new era of defence cooperation on Tuesday driven partly by a
need to save money while retaining the weaponry to project force
across the world.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said a London summit
between Prime Minister David Cameron and French President
Nicolas Sarkozy would focus on joint training, cooperation on
acquiring equipment and technology, making military equipment
more compatible, and greater information-sharing.

Britain and France, both nuclear powers, have western
Europe’s most capable armed forces. But both nations are cutting
public spending to rein in big budget deficits, making it vital
to get the best possible value in defence spending.

“This relationship will be taken to a new level — the
closest it has ever been.” Fox wrote in The Sunday Telegraph
newspaper.

However, he said the initiative was not a repeat of a 1998
Anglo-French agreement seen as paving the way for a common
European Union defence policy. “Nor is it a push for an EU army,
which we oppose,” he wrote.

Increased cooperation should allow both countries to continue
to project force on the world stage by sharing sophisticated,
but expensive, military capabilities.

ABOUT MONEY

“This is about money,” said defence analyst Charles Heyman.
“The ways in which you can cooperate very, very quickly and save
a lot of money are on things ilke air transport (and) pilot
training. You can cooperate at sea. People are already doing
it,” he told Reuters.

Two weeks ago, Cameron’s coalition government announced
Britain’s 36.9 billion pound ($59.20 billion) defence budget
would be cut by 8 percent in real terms over the next four years
as part of efforts to curb a record peacetime budget deficit.

Britain announced cuts to its army, navy and air force. It
pushed ahead with ordering two new aircraft carriers, although
only one will be operational. Changes to the carrier’s design
mean it will be able to carry French or U.S. planes.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin sketched out the extent
of cooperation last week, saying France and Britain could
station warplanes on each other’s aircraft carriers and refuel
each other’s planes.

A British frigate could help protect French aircraft carrier
Charles de Gaulle and vice versa, he said in an interview with
French business daily La Tribune.

Other areas he cited were joint maintenance and staff
training for the A400M military transport aircraft (EAD.DE: ),
joint work on a new drone, or pilotless aircraft, and
rationalisation of missiles.

Some reports say the two countries could coordinate to
ensure one of their aircraft carriers was always at sea.

Britain and France have also been discussing Britain’s new
fleet of Airbus refuelling planes, amid suggestions that France
could sub-let some of the 14 planes.

The British and French finance, defence and foreign
ministers will join Tuesday’s talks which are also expected to
deal with Afghanistan, where both countries have troops
deployed, and preparations for November’s Group of 20 summit in
South Korea.
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

PREVIEW-UK, France enter new era of defence cooperation