U.S. Congress Authorizes the Sale of 16 Drones to France for $1.5 Billion

Saturday, July 27, 2013
Pléiades satellite (photo: Astrium)

On June 11th, the French Ministry of Defense announced that it intends to bring its defenses up-to-date by acquiring 12 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) surveillance drones.  Following France’s announcement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on June 27th about the proposed sale of UAV MQ-9 General Atomics Reaper drones.

In its proposal to Congress, the DSCA said it was “vital to the national interest of the United States to help France to develop and maintain a strong and immediate capacity defense." According to the Pentagon, the potential sale would “enhance the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability” of France’s military, thus greatly increasing the “interoperability between the U.S. and French military and peacekeeping forces.”

Although the proposal sent to Congress lists 16 drones for the sum of $1.5 billion, this is in fact an overestimate, as is often the case in arms deals, in order to allow a partner to order additional hardware without having to reapply to Congress.  The initial acquisition project actually involves only 12 drones. The French government wants to deploy two drones by the end of the year in the Sahel, a region in north-central Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.

There is also some discrepancy regarding the price of the drones. The proposal to Congress, which cites a long list of equipment and related services, amounts to almost $94 million per aircraft, not counting the cost of the “francicisation” of the devices. This estimate does not match the $874 million ($72.8 million per aircraft) price announced by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French minister of defense, who insisted that he would not exceed the intended budget and that some equipment and services listed in the Pentagon’s proposal would not be bought.

-Anne-Laure Chanteloup

To Learn More:

Biographe Jean-Yves Leie d Drian (AllGov France)

Congress OKs deal to Sell Reaper Drones to France (Agence France-Presse)

Défense : la France veut rattraper son retard en matière de drone (by Anne-Laure Chanteloup, AllGov France)

France—MQ-9 Reapers (Defense Security Cooperation Agency) (pdf)

Ministère de la Défense (AllGov France)


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