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MILITARY

France plans to spend €37 billion on revamp of its nuclear arsenal

France is planning a 37-billion-euro revamp of its nuclear arsenal over the next seven years, part of a sharp increase in defence spending aimed at allowing France to "hold its own" as a key power in Europe, the country's defence chief said Thursday.

France plans to spend €37 billion on revamp of its nuclear arsenal
View of submarine "Le Terrible". Photo: AFP

The upgrades to France's land- and sea-based nuclear deterrent will be part of the nearly 300 billion euros ($370 billion) to be spent by 2025.

That would take the defence budget to the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP, compared with about 1.8 percent currently.

“We are going to make up for past shortfalls and build a modern, sustainable, protective army” that would allow France to hold its own, defence minister Florence Parly said Thursday.

The spending hike under President Emmanuel Macron marks a reversal of years of belt-tightening in defence, which caused tension in the ranks while drawing criticism from the United States that France and other NATO members were not pulling their weight.

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Photo: AFP

Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union.

The defence ministry plans to raise overall spending by 1.7 billion euros a year from 2019 to 2022, increasing to 3 billion a year between 2023 and 2025.

“The government's goal is twofold: reach the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence by 2025, while also ensuring we manage our public finances,” Parly said.

French forces and equipment have been strained by operations against jihadists in West Africa as well as the country's participation in the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Thousands of soldiers have also been deployed across France as part of the anti-terror patrols implemented after a string of attacks claimed or inspired by IS.

France will also begin studying a replacement for its sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which is slated for retirement around 2040, while financing research into next-generation combat jets and tanks.

Drones, satellites and surveillance craft will also be developed in order to increase strategic autonomy for both France and Europe, according to the defence proposals released Wednesday.

DEFENCE

France recruits 1,800 extra staff to cyber warfare unit

The French defence ministry on Wednesday announced plans to significantly boost the country's four-year-old cyber warfare force, citing the "growing number and gravity" of hacking attacks on the country.

France recruits 1,800 extra staff to cyber warfare unit
French defence minister Florence Parly. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

The government had already planned to add an additional 1,100 recruits to a unit created in response to the growing number of cyber attacks on the West, mostly blamed on Russia and China.

Defence Minister Florence Parly told a cyber security conference in the city of Lille on Wednesday she had decided to go further to try make France “a cyber security champion”.

Warning of a “Cold War in cyberspace” she said she would hire an extra 770 cyber combattants on top of an additional 1,100 already planned, bringing the force’s staffing level to 5,000 by 2025.

France and other Western countries are alarmed over a growing number of increasingly aggressive cyber attacks, including data breaches and ransomware attacks, which typically see hackers encrypting victims’ data and then demanding money for restored access.

Recent high-profile targets have included a US oil pipeline, Ireland’s health service and India’s flag carrier Air India.

Parly said that the French army needed to increase it use of the “cyber weapon”.

“Our opponents do not shy away from doing so, whether state powers, terrorist groups or their backers,” she said.

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