Friday, March 21, 2008

Sarko starts his (EU) Presidency early

It has long been felt that the French EU Presidency starting in July would be quite a whizz bang affair. The key area flagged up will be defence and the acceleration of the European defence identity. According to a report in the FT it apears that he is trying to make his own personal Chritmas come early. He has written to Brown.

In the letter, Mr Sarkozy is thought to have cited Future Rapid Effects System, the British army’s biggest procurement programme, which will give it a new generation of armoured vehicles, as one area where co-operation would help both countries. The programme will see Britain spend up to £16bn (€20.5bn, $31.7bn) on 3,000 vehicles.

Industry sources say they expect Mr Sarkozy to press Mr Brown to select a vehicle designed by Nexter, the French state-owned company, when they meet in London next week.

Nexter is competing against a bid from General Dynamics of the US, and the Americans are widely seen as the frontrunner. In a last-ditch attempt to influence the decision, the chairman of Nexter recently wrote to the UK defence ministry offering to provide the vehicles by 2011 – one year before the date set by the government.

I can see how it might help France, and the European Army, but I fail to see how this system could possibly help our national interest. For background (a lot of it go here and here)
"The third of the vehicles on the shortlist, the French-built (Renault) VBCI, stems from a French Army contract issued in November 2000, with first deliveries in 2008. If it entered British service by the earliest projected in-service date for FRES of 2012, it would be a 12 year-old design, with the origins of the concept stretching back into the 80s."
Which given that Nexter themselves suggest the vehihcle will be around for 40 years that'll mean that in the end the Army are looking to be driving around in 70 year old kit. Even this government cannot be happy about that... can they?

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