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French Armed Forces

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

French Armed Forces
Forces armées françaises
Logo of the French Armed Forces.svg
Logo of the French Armed Forces
Founded1792; 227 years ago (1792)
Service branchesArmy
Air Force
National Gendarmerie
National Guard
Chief of the Armed ForcesPresident Emmanuel Macron
Minister of the Armed ForcesFlorence Parly
Chief of the Defence StaffFrançois Lecointre
Military age17.5
Active personnel205,121 military (2016)[1]
60,337 civilian (2016)[1] 103,504 gendarmerie (2018) Total active 368,962 [2] (ranked 22)
Reserve personnel32,303 operational reserve (2016) 25,000 gendarmerie, Total reserve 57,303 [1]
Deployed personnel17,000+[1]
Budget$57.8 billion (2017) (ranked 6st) [3]
Note: Incl. Gendarmerie budget
Percent of GDP1.81% (2018)[1]
Foreign suppliers Austria
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of France
RanksArmy ranks
Navy ranks
Air force ranks

The French Armed Forces (French: Forces armées françaises) encompass the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the National Guard and the Gendarmerie of the French Republic. The President of France heads the armed forces as chef des armées.

France maintains the sixth largest defence budget in the world and the first in the European Union (EU). France has the largest armed forces in size in the European Union.[4] France also maintains the world's third-largest nuclear deterrent (behind Russia and the United States).

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For the last 60 years, European nations have been enjoying, for the most part, relative peace and stability. Though, for two millennia prior, this part of the world saw almost continual conflict. Two such nations with a long history of conflict are France and Germany. While the modern spectator of international relations would tell you that presently these two countries don’t harbor any apparent enmity, for centuries past they were almost devout enemies. Today we’re going to look at what might happen if these two powerful European nations once again took up arms against each other, in this episode of The Infographics Show, Germany vs. France. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell button so that you can be part of our Notification Squad. Germany is a country of just over 82 million people, that borders several countries including France in the southwest. Renowned for its engineering ingenuity and on the whole a highly productive society, Germany has the 5th highest GDP in the world of around $3.842 trillion. It would be in 4th place if we discounted the European Union. This is the highest GDP in Europe, with the UK trailing in 9th place. In 10th place is France, with a GDP of around $2.647 trillion. France is not considered equal to Germany in terms of industrial prowess, but it is and has been considered a global leader regarding arts, science and development of society in general. France has a population of 67 million people. It is much bigger than Germany at about 250,000 sq miles (248,573 mi²) (643,801 km²), with Germany being about 138,000 sq miles (137,983 mi²) (357,374 km²). Germany has a defense budget of 41.1 billion dollars, which is 1.2 percent of its GDP. This is compared to France’s 55.7 billion dollar budget, which is 2.3 percent of its GDP. These are both relatively large expenditures and are the only European nations in the top ten of biggest military budgets besides the UK. In terms of military power, Germany is usually ranked in the top ten of the world’s most powerful militaries. Its active frontline personnel number 180,000 with another 145,000 being active reserve personnel. France, which is usually ranked higher than Germany in terms of military strength, has 205,000 active frontline personnel and 195,700 active reserve personnel. As for land weaponry, Germany has 543 tanks, 5,869 armored fighting vehicles, 154 self-propelled guns, 0 towed artillery, and 50 multiple-launch rocket systems. France has 406 tanks, 6,863 AFVs, 325 SPGs, 233 towed artillery, and 44 MLRSs. Both countries have tanks that are regarded as some of the best tank technology in the world. Which machine is better, is debatable. Germany’s vanguard tank is the Leopard 2 and its various successors, notably the Leopard 2A7, which Germany is said to have around 20 of. The total number of Leopard 2s built over the years is 3,480. France’s pride and joy is the AMX Leclerc, with around 400 units in use in the French army. As far as air power goes, Germany has a much smaller fleet of aircraft than France with 698 aircraft in total. This combines 92 fighters, 169 fixed wing attack aircraft, 345 transport aircraft, 47 trainer aircraft, 375 helicopters, and 47 attack helicopters. Of France’s 1,305 total aircraft, 296 are fighters, 284 are fixed wing attack aircraft, 662 transport aircraft, 283 trainer aircraft, 610 helicopters, and 49 attack helicopters. Numbers aside, France is seen as having a vastly superior air force to Germany, not only because of aircraft technology, but also its missile technology. Perhaps its feather in the hat is its Dassault Rafale omnirole fighter, largely believed to be one of the best fighting machines ever to take to the skies. Fast and furious, the fighter carries an arsenal of missiles, including an ASMP nuclear missile, and is also endowed with the latest radar systems. There are currently 108 of these planes in service. Germany may not have built a plane to contend with the Dassault Rafale, but it does own over 125 Eurofighter Typhoons, which was developed and built by the countries of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Germany’s air force was maybe the most feared air force in the world during the second world war, and its pilots, many of whom are trained in the United States, are highly rated. Still, for sheer numbers and technology, France wins in the air. Germany’s navy also pales in comparison to the French navy. Its naval power consists of 10 frigates, 0 destroyers, 5 corvettes, 6 submarines, 13 mine warfare, 11 replenishment ships, and 20 miscellaneous auxiliary vessels. Its main concern is protecting territorial waters and global peacekeeping. The French navy, on the other hand, is often said to be one of the strongest navies in the world. Its 86 vessels consist of 11 frigates, 4 air-defense destroyers, 8 anti-submarine destroyers, 0 corvettes, 10 submarines, 16 mine warfare, 17 coastal defense craft, 3 amphibious assault ships, and one aircraft carrier. This navy is considered far more powerful than that of Germany, and if expected of it, could also be far more aggressive. For this hypothetical battle to take place, it not only requires personnel, weapons, and technology, but also a lot of oil to fuel it. Germany produces around 48,000 barrels of oil a day and consumes 2.4 million barrels daily. It has around 100,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves. France produces around 15,340 barrels a day, consumes 1.7 million, and has about 84 million barrels in proven oil reserve. As far as nuclear capabilities go, the French are third behind Russia and the USA in the number of nuclear warheads. France’s 300 nuclear warheads, 280 of which are active, is 300 more than Germany has. We should note here that when Germany signed The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, that was negotiated in 1990, it agreed to limit its army, navy, and air force, and also agreed not to manufacture nuclear weapons. The country is part of the NATO nuclear weapons sharing program, which means nuclear arms can be supplied by the countries that have them. Such a treaty was the result of the two world wars, but one could say it’s also testament to how the world held Germany’s military might in awe. Germany and its allies were not far away from winning World War II, due to excellent military strategy and advanced weaponry. France and Germany are both close allies now, and there is little to no chance that a war could break-out between the countries. On a purely hypothetical basis, though, France may have the stronger military. At the same time, would anyone want to underestimate Germany? The war would not be fought between just the two countries, of course, and the matter of who’s allied with whom would depend on the circumstances of what started the war. But for argument’s sake, let’s say no one else got involved, who do you think would win? Let us know in the comments! And if you like these military comparisons, be sure to watch the European Union vs the United States. Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. Also, please consider heading over to our Patreon; we are currently raising money to hire more writers so that we can continue bringing you this bi-weekly show!



The military history of France encompasses an immense panorama of conflicts and struggles extending for more than 2,000 years across areas including modern France, greater Europe, and French territorial possessions overseas. According to the British historian Niall Ferguson, France has participated in 50 of the 125 major European wars fought since 1495, and in 168 battles fought since 387 BC, they have won 109, drawn 10 and lost 49: this makes France the most successful military power in European history—in terms of number of fought and won.[5]

The Gallo-Roman conflict predominated from 60 BC to 50 BC, with the Romans emerging victorious in the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar. After the decline of the Roman Empire, a Germanic tribe known as the Franks took control of Gaul by defeating competing tribes. The "land of Francia," from which France gets its name, had high points of expansion under kings Clovis I and Charlemagne. In the Middle Ages, rivalries with England and the Holy Roman Empire prompted major conflicts such as the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years' War. With an increasingly centralized monarchy, the first standing army since Roman times, and the use of artillery, France expelled the English from its territory and came out of the Middle Ages as the most powerful nation in Europe, only to lose that status to Spain following defeat in the Italian Wars. The Wars of Religion crippled France in the late 16th century, but a major victory over Spain in the Thirty Years' War made France the most powerful nation on the continent once more. In parallel, France developed its first colonial empire in Asia, Africa, and in the Americas. Under Louis XIV, France achieved military supremacy over its rivals, but escalating conflicts against increasingly powerful enemy coalitions checked French ambitions and left the kingdom bankrupt at the opening of the 18th century.

Resurgent French armies secured victories in dynastic conflicts against the Spanish, Polish, and Austrian crowns. At the same time, France was fending off attacks on its colonies. As the 18th century advanced, global competition with Great Britain led to the Seven Years' War, where France lost its North American holdings. Consolation came in the form of dominance in Europe and the American Revolutionary War, where extensive French aid in the form of money and arms, and the direct participation of its army and navy led to America's independence.[5] Internal political upheaval eventually led to 23 years of nearly continuous conflict in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. France reached the zenith of its power during this period, dominating the European continent in an unprecedented fashion under Napoleon Bonaparte, but by 1815 it had been restored to its pre-Revolutionary borders. The rest of the 19th century witnessed the growth of the Second French colonial empire as well as French interventions in Belgium, Spain, and Mexico. Other major wars were fought against Russia in the Crimea, Austria in Italy, and Prussia within France itself.

Following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Franco-German rivalry erupted again in the First World War. France and its allies were victorious this time. Social, political, and economic upheaval in the wake of the conflict led to the Second World War, in which the Allies were defeated in the Battle of France and the French government surrendered and was replaced with an authoritarian regime. The Allies, including the government in exile's Free French Forces and later a liberated French nation, eventually emerged victorious over the Axis powers. As a result, France secured an occupation zone in Germany and a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The imperative of avoiding a third Franco-German conflict on the scale of those of two world wars paved the way for European integration starting in the 1950s. France became a nuclear power and since the 1990s its military action is most often seen in cooperation with NATO and its European partners.

International stance today

Today, French military doctrine is based on the concepts of national independence, nuclear deterrence (see Force de frappe), and military self-sufficiency. France is a charter member of NATO, and has worked actively with its allies to adapt NATO—internally and externally—to the post-Cold War environment. In December 1995, France announced that it would increase its participation in NATO's military wing, including the Military Committee (France withdrew from NATO's military bodies in 1966 whilst remaining full participants in the Organisation's political Councils). France remains a firm supporter of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other cooperative efforts. Paris hosted the May 1997 NATO-Russia Summit which sought the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. Outside of NATO, France has actively and heavily participated in both coalition and unilateral peacekeeping efforts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, frequently taking a lead role in these operations. France has undertaken a major restructuring to develop a professional military that will be smaller, more rapidly deployable, and better tailored for operations outside of mainland France. Key elements of the restructuring include: reducing personnel, bases and headquarters, and rationalistion of equipment and the armaments industry.

Since the end of the Cold War, France has placed a high priority on arms control and non-proliferation. French Nuclear testing in the Pacific, and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior strained French relations with its Allies, South Pacific states (namely New Zealand), and world opinion. France agreed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992 and supported its indefinite extension in 1995. After conducting a controversial final series of six nuclear tests on Mururoa in the South Pacific, the French signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. Since then, France has implemented a moratorium on the production, export, and use of anti-personnel landmines and supports negotiations leading toward a universal ban. The French are key players in the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe to the new strategic environment. France remains an active participant in: the major programs to restrict the transfer of technologies that could lead to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group (for chemical and biological weapons), and the Missile Technology Control Regime. France has also signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

2008 White Paper

On 31 July 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered M. Jean-Claude Mallet, a member of the Council of State, to head up a thirty-five member commission charged with a wide-ranging review of French defence. The commission issued its White Paper in early 2008.[6] Acting upon its recommendations, President Sarkozy began making radical changes in French defense policy and structures starting in the summer of 2008. In keeping with post-Cold War changes in European politics and power structures, the French military's traditional focus on territorial defence will be redirected to meet the challenges of a global threat environment. Under the reorganisation, the identification and destruction of terrorist networks both in metropolitan France and in francophone Africa will be the primary task of the French military. Redundant military bases will be closed and new weapons systems projects put on hold to finance the restructuring and global deployment of intervention forces. In a historic change, Sarkozy furthermore has declared that France "will now participate fully in NATO," four decades after former French president General Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the alliance's command structure and ordered American troops off French soil.[7]

Recent operations

  France   French military interventions since 2001: Afghanistan; Ivory Coast;  Chad; Libya; Somalia; Mali; Central African Republic; Syria; Iraq.
  French military interventions since 2001: Afghanistan; Ivory Coast; Chad; Libya; Somalia; Mali; Central African Republic; Syria; Iraq.

There are currently 36,000 French troops deployed in foreign territories—such operations are known as "OPEX" for Opérations Extérieures ("External Operations"). Among other countries, France provides troops for the United Nations force stationed in Haiti following the 2004 Haiti rebellion. France has sent troops, especially special forces, into Afghanistan to help the United States and NATO forces fight the remains of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In Opération Licorne a force of a few thousand French soldiers is stationed in Ivory Coast on a UN peacekeeping mission. These troops were initially sent under the terms of a mutual protection pact between France and the Ivory Coast, but the mission has since evolved into the current UN peacekeeping operation. The French Armed Forces have also played a leading role in the ongoing UN peacekeeping mission along the Lebanon-Israel border as part of the cease-fire agreement that brought the 2006 Lebanon War to an end. Currently, France has 2,000 army personnel deployed along the border, including infantry, armour, artillery and air defence. There are also naval and air personnel deployed offshore.

The French Joint Force and Training Headquarters (État-Major Interarmées de Force et d'Entraînement) at Air Base 110 near Creil maintains the ability to command a medium or large-scale international operation, and runs exercises .[8] In 2011, from 19 March, France participated in the enforcement of a no-fly zone over northern Libya, during the Libyan Civil war, in order to prevent forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out air attacks on Anti-Gaddafi forces. This operation was known as Opération Harmattan and was part of France's involvement in the conflict in the NATO-led coalition, enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 1973. On 11 January 2013 France begun Operation Serval to fight Islamists in Mali with African support but without NATO involvement.

2013 White Paper

In May 2014, high ranking defence chiefs of the French Armed Forces threatened to resign if the defence budget received further cuts on top of those already announced in the 2013 White Paper. They warned that further cuts would leave the armed forces unable to support operations abroad.[9]


The head of the French armed forces is the President of the Republic, in his role as chef des armées. However, the Constitution puts civil and military government forces at the disposal of the gouvernement (the executive cabinet of ministers chaired by the Prime Minister, who are not necessarily of the same political side as the president). The Minister of the Armed Forces (as of 2017, the incumbent Florence Parly) oversees the military's funding, procurement and operations. Historically, France relied a great deal on conscription to provide manpower for its military, in addition to a minority of professional career soldiers. Following the Algerian War, the use of non-volunteer draftees in foreign operations was ended; if their unit was called up for duty in war zones, draftees were offered the choice between requesting a transfer to another unit or volunteering for the active mission. In 1996, President Jacques Chirac's government announced the end of conscription and in 2001, conscription formally was ended. Young people must still, however, register for possible conscription (should the situation call for it). As of 2017 the French Armed Forces have total menpower of 426,265, and has an active personnel of 368,962 (with the Gendarmerie National).[1]

It breaks down as follows (2015):[1]

The reserve element of the French Armed Forces consists of two structures; the Operational Reserve and the Citizens Reserve. As of 2015 the strength of the Operational Reserve is 27,785 personnel.[1]

Apart from the three main service branches, the French Armed Forces also includes a fourth paramilitary branch called the National Gendarmerie. It had a reported strength of 103,000 active personnel and 25,000 reserve personnel in 2018.[10] They are used in everyday law enforcement, and also form a coast guard formation under the command of the French Navy. There are however some elements of the Gendarmerie that participate in French external operations, providing specialised law enforcement and supporting roles.

Historically the National Guard functioned as the Army's reserve national defense and law enforcement militia. After 145 years since its disbandment, due to the risk of terrorist attacks in the country, the Guard was officially reactivated, this time as a service branch of the Armed Forces, on 12 October 2016.[11]

Organisation and service branches

The French armed forces are divided into five service branches:

French Army (Armée de terre)

French Navy (Marine nationale)

The Charles de Gaulle, the nuclear aircraft carrier of Marine nationale.
The Charles de Gaulle, the nuclear aircraft carrier of Marine nationale.

In addition, the National Gendarmerie form a Coast Guard force called the Gendarmerie Maritime which is commanded by the French Navy.

French Air Force (Armée de l'Air)

National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie nationale)

The National Gendarmerie is primarily a military and airborne capable police force which serves as a rural and general purpose police force.

National Guard (Garde nationale)

Reactivated in 2016, the National Guard serves as the official primary military and police reserve service of the Armed Forces. It also doubles as a force multiplier for law enforcement personnel during contingencies and to reinforce military personnel whenever being deployed within France and abroad.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Chiffres clés de la Défense - 2017" (in French). Archived from the original on 2018-02-18. Retrieved 2018-06-29.)
  2. ^
  3. ^ (in French)[1],
  4. ^ "Military expenditure by country, in constant (2015) US$ m., 2007-2016 (table)" (PDF). Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Quite Interesting: the QI cabinet of curiosity". The Telegraph. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  6. ^ Official Presidential Website, Letter of Engagement to M. Jean-Claude Mallet, 31 July 2007 Archived 21 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Jim Hoagland, "France's Whirlwind of Change", Real Clear Politics, 18 June 2008 [2]
  8. ^ [3] Archived June 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Samuels, Henry (23 May 2014). "French Military Heads Threaten to Resign Over 'Grave' Defense Cuts". Telegraph. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  10. ^ [4],, 2018
  11. ^ Corbet, Sylvie (8 August 2017). "France creates National Guard to battle terrorism".

External links

This page was last edited on 5 February 2019, at 16:01
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