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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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DEFENCE

Australia ‘bets on’ France for ‘audacious’ €30 billion submarine deal

Australia formally signed a €30 billion (Aus$50 billion) "strategic partnership" with France to build 12 state of the art submarines Monday, a signal of Canberra's willingness to project power across the Pacific.

Australia 'bets on' France for 'audacious' €30 billion submarine deal
Workers gather near 'Suffren' a Barracuda Class nuclear attack submarine in Cherbourg-Octeville, north-western France. Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the “very audacious plan” at a ceremony in Canberra as “part of Australia's biggest ever peace-time investment in defence”.
   
The partnership's main pillar is a contract for France's Naval Group — a consortium with state backing — to build 12 attack-class submarines and has been years in the making.
 
At roughly US$35 billion this is Australia's largest ever defence procurement project and the largest ever foreign sales deal by French shipbuilder Naval Group. 
   
The first submarine is expected to be finished in the early 2030s, starting with sea trials around the first quarter of 2031 and operational testing in late 2032.
 
French beat Germans to Australian submarine jackpot
Photo: AFP
   
Critics say that is too late: the waters to Australia's north and east are the scene of an intense struggle between the United States, China and regional powers, who are all vying for influence.
   
Beijing has made territorial claims to much of the South China Sea — a marine thoroughfare that is vital to maintain the supply of ores, minerals and crude that fuel the Chinese economy.
 
Washington fears that China is becoming increasingly assertive over those claims to display its dominance over smaller Asian nations and become the prime regional power.
   
Australian military analysts hope the subs will allow the country to maintain a credible deterrent against possible hostile actions.
   
Visiting French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly cosigned the agreement in a ceremony that took place in the shadow of a memorial to US forces in front of the Australian defence offices in Canberra.
 
“It takes a lot of confidence for Australia to bet on France and a lot of confidence for France to share with Australia the capability that is so close to the core of our sovereignty and our strategic autonomy and a result of immense investment over decades,” Parly said.
 
'Eyeless beasts'
 
Under the Strategic Partnership Agreement, 12 conventionally powered submarines derived from the Naval Group Barracuda nuclear design will be constructed in a new shipyard in South Australia.
   
Parly hailed the agreement, which was negotiated and drafted entirely in English, as a long-term partnership between Australia and France and dismissed some “whining about the lengths of the negotiations”.
 
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks to the Captain and crew of the submarine “Le Terrible”. Photo: AFP    
 
“Behind those masses of dark steel, behind those eyeless beasts” there was friendship and a common attachment to multilateralism and the rules-based order, she said.
   
Naval Group chairman Herve Guillou said Australia chose the French submarine design because of its endurance, long range and acoustic superiority.
   
“We are bidding in the Netherlands today. That is one really important bid because they are looking as well for expeditionary submarines,” he said, hoping the Australia contract would serve as a launchpad for contracts in other countries including India, Poland and Brazil.
 
Guillou confirmed the first Australian submarine should be sailing in the early 2030s, the last in the early 2040s with the last decommissioned probably in the early 2080s.
   
“We are looking at a very, very long-term partnership with Australia,” he said.
 
The agreement comprises two thick volumes with 23 schedules, with two more schedules to be added later.
   
It sets conditions on what intellectual property Australia has access to and which it owns, and covers a range of provisions for contract termination or missed deadlines.
   
Guillou also said an alliance with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri would permit the two companies to team up on research, development and procurement for some common projects, either bilateral or for export.
 
“If we look at the change in the market, we need European players to unite more strongly to be able to face the new giants in this market, like CSCC in China, like OSK in Russia,” he said.
   
“We really want to take the initiative of being stronger before the others are stronger.”
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