French armed forces

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flag French armed forces
Forces armées françaises
Armoiries république française.svg
Commander in Chief : President Emmanuel Macron
Defense Minister: Minister Florence Parly
Military Commander: Chef d'État-Major des Armées François Lecointre
Military leadership: General Staff of the Armed Forces
Military strength
Active soldiers: 206,317 (2018)
Reservists: 38,529 (2018)
Conscription: No
Resilient population: 27,181,048 (men and women; age 17–49 / 2005; estimate)
Eligibility for military service: Age 18 and over , obligation possible from the age of 17 with parental consent.
Share of soldiers in the total population: 0.57%
Military budget: € 46.1 billion (PLF 2020, including pensions)
€ 37.5 billion (2020, excluding pensions)
Founding: 1792
Highest manpower: 7,000,000 (1940)

The French armed forces ( French Forces armées françaises , also Armée française ) are the military of the French Republic and are among the most powerful in the world. The French President is entitled "chef des armées" commander in chief of the armed forces, he is the supreme authority for military affairs and is the only one of a nuclear attack may order. France has been a full member of NATO again since June 2009 , after withdrawing from the alliance's military structure in 1966. The French armed forces are the second largest armed force within NATO after the armed forces of the United States . The French defense budget was the third highest in the world in 2009 and only the fifth highest in 2013.

The total strength of the French armed forces includes the national gendarmerie with around 100,000 members and also traditionally the professional fire brigade of Paris (belongs to the pioneer group) and the professional fire brigade of Marseille (belongs to the navy). In fact, France actually had around 245,000 soldiers in 2009.


The mission of the French armed forces is, in the broadest sense, to ensure national independence. From 1959 to 2009, Article 1111-1 of the French Code de la Defense named the mandate as follows:

La défense a pour objet d'assurer en tout temps, en toutes circonstances et contre toutes les formes d'agression, la sécurité et l'intégrité du territoire, ainsi que la vie de la population. Elle pourvoit de même au respect des alliances, traités et accords internationaux.

“The aim of [national] defense is to secure the security and integrity of the territory and the life of the population at all times, under all circumstances and against any kind of aggression . It also guarantees respect for international alliances, treaties and conventions. "

The "territorial integrity" refers both to the metropolitan France ( France métropolitaine ) as well as the overseas departments ( DROM-COM ). Humanitarian missions also serve to protect the population .

The order of the French armed forces includes (as of January 2007) participation in the Eurocorps , international peace missions and the war on terrorism .

Armed forces

The French military is divided into four branches . In addition to the usual armed forces, the army , navy and air force, there is a national police force , the gendarmerie nationale, within the framework of French centralism . In addition, France considers its nuclear deterrence to be so important that it is also used in its own armed force ( Force de dissuasion nucléaire de la France ), which consists of elements from the navy and air forces. The French nuclear arsenal is the fourth largest in the world behind that of the USA , Russia and China .

In 2010 the proportion of women in the armed forces was 15.5%.


A soldier of the 35th Infantry Regiment during a deployment to Afghanistan in June 2005

The Armée de Terre is 77,000 soldiers (as of 2016), the largest of the four branches of the armed forces. These can fall back on a fleet of 254 battle tanks ( Leclerc ), 4648 armored and protected vehicles, 121 artillery pieces , and 260 combat and transport helicopters. Another 90 are to be added by 2019. In addition, the Foreign Legion is subordinate to the army.

Air force

Aerobatic team Patrouille de France of the French Air Force

The Armée de l'air is the second largest branch of the armed forces. It is divided into two air regions (north and south) and two air defense sectors. Around 530 combat aircraft (including 234 Dassault Rafale , Dassault Mirage 2000 , and 80 Dassault Mirage F1 ), 131 transport aircraft (including 55 Transall ), 323 trainer aircraft (including 146 Alpha Jet ) and 86 helicopters are distributed among them .


Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91)

The navy national is divided into three departments. The regular navy, the marine infantry (French Infanterie de marine ), as well as the naval aviation ( Aviation navale ). The Navy is divided into the Atlantic , Mediterranean , Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean commands . It has 66 warships and 162 aircraft - including 138 combat aircraft, including the Dassault Rafale . The flagship of the National Navy is the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle . Besides Russia , France is the only European country to be equipped with a CTOL aircraft carrier with safety cables and launch catapults, similar to the US carriers. The Navy also includes six nuclear-powered hunting submarines (SNA) and four nuclear-powered submarines with ICBMs (SNLE).

National gendarmerie

The National Gendarmerie is a police association of the Republic of France . It is part of the armed forces and therefore, unlike the other police forces, reports to the Ministry of Defense .

Nuclear force

With the Force de dissuasion nucléaire de la France (coll. Force de frappe ), France maintains an independent nuclear deterrent with around 350 warheads. Around 10% of the defense budget flows into these, which is twice the share of the British nuclear forces. Critics are of the opinion that this expensive apparatus alone gives French foreign policy its momentary weight, over which France is neither economically nor politically or with its conventional armed forces e.g. B. in comparison with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council .


Ministerial level

According to Article 15 of the French Constitution, the President of the Republic is "chief des armées" and thus commander in chief of the French armed forces. He appoints the top officers and decides on the necessary resources for the army. He also chairs the defense councils (which plan the overall strategy) and is the only one who can order the direct use of nuclear weapons . The current president is Emmanuel Macron .

The Minister of Defense has been Florence Parly since June 21, 2017 , who carries out his daily political task. The Minister is supported by a ministerial audit office and a delegation for strategic affairs. The chiefs of staff of the individual armed forces form a general staff and advise the minister, on an equal footing with a department for armaments procurement and a general secretary for administration.


In 1997, it was decided to suspend military service at the end of 2002. From the middle of 2001 onwards, no more conscripts were drafted and since the beginning of 2002 the French armed forces have been a volunteer army. There is still a duty to register a military service, which has also been extended to girls.

The reason for the suspension was the high number of volunteers who had volunteered over the years. The 1997 defense reform resolved not only to suspend compulsory military service, but also to comprehensively modernize the military, the start of which could be brought forward with the savings made. In 2019, a thirty-day general compulsory service with the Service national universel (SNU) , the "General National Service", was decided, which can also be partially served in the military.

Further development

The white paper presented on June 17, 2008 laid down the framework for the development of the armed forces in the coming years. Accordingly, the defense budget should be fixed at the level of 2008 and increased annually from 2012 by one percent. The armed forces were to shrink from 271,000 men in 2008 to 225,000 men by 2012. At the end of this process, the army should number 131,000, the air force 50,000 and the navy 44,000 soldiers. 10,000 men are to be kept ready in their home country at all times so that they can intervene immediately in the event of a major terrorist attack. Instead of the previous 50,000 men who can be relocated to a crisis area up to 8,000 kilometers away within six months, only 30,000 should be available. Also by 2012, 83 military bases should be closed and several units dissolved. The remaining were to be bundled at 80 military bases.

The 10,000-strong French permanent military presence in Africa, spread over several locations, should be drastically reduced because of its high costs. Only one large base in West and one in East Africa should remain. By contrast, Asia should move more into the focus of military engagement abroad. The White Paper also proposed that the European Union should be able to operate up to three peacekeeping military missions abroad at the same time and that military cooperation within the EU should be strengthened in general. Nicolas Sarkozy , President of the Republic by 2012, wanted to achieve this goal with the complete reintegration of France into NATO and the Europeanization of the French arms industry.

The money that would be freed up by the reduction in the number of crews and the number of bases should go into modern equipment. For 2009 it was planned to increase the item for new armaments compared to the previous year by 2.8 billion to 18 billion euros. The most important acquisition projects up to 2012 were 250 Leclerc tanks, 650 armored personnel carriers of the Véhicule Blindé de Combat d'Infanterie type , 80 combat and 130 transport helicopters and 25,000 modern combat suits of the FÉLIN type . The navy was to receive 18 destroyers and frigates, six nuclear submarines and an air squadron. However, only 200 instead of the originally planned 300 Dassault Rafale fighter planes were to be purchased.

In 2013, the armed forces spent around 6 billion euros on repairs and maintenance (nominally around 20 percent more than in 2000); Nevertheless, the condition of many defense materials is considered to be poor. The economic crisis of 2009/10 , the euro crisis , France's national debt, the new indebtedness ratio, the foreign trade balance and other factors force France's policy to save.

In the meantime, a new white paper was published in 2013, in which partly different specifications were made.

Defense budget

In the French state budget, the resources of the Ministry of the Armed Forces are divided into three areas, the "Defense" area, which brings together most of the funds, the inter-ministerial area "Veterans, commemoration and links with the nation" and the inter-ministerial area "Research and higher education" .

The French defense budget is one of the highest in Europe. The general trend towards more defense budgets in France in 2019 continues as in most European countries. The defense budget, including pensions, rose from € 38.99 billion in 2014 to € 46.1 billion in 2020, which corresponds to a current increase of 18.2 percent. These figures are not directly comparable with those of other NATO countries, but nevertheless reflect a considerable investment in the purchase of new equipment.

The effective budget available for the French armed forces in 2020 is around 37.60 billion euros. The French military budget is thus the third highest defense budget in Europe after Germany with € 45.2 billion (2020) and Great Britain.

Development of the defense budget in billion euros and as a percentage of the French GDP
Programs 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
PIB France [billion €] 2147.6 2198.4 2234.1 2295.1 2353.1 2416.9 2479.4
Defense budget (including pensions) [billion €] 38.99 38.89 39.69 40.59 42.63 44.40 46.10
Defense budget (excluding pensions) [billion €] - 31.15 31.73 32.44 34.20 35.80 37.50
% Military budget (including pensions) / PIB 1.82% 1.78% 1.77% 1.77% 1.81% 1.83% 1.86%

See also

  • French Armed Forces ranks
  • Franco-German Brigade (since 1989)
  • The term army appears historically in the names of the five armies, as major formations assigned to regions of France, of which ...
    • The 1ere armée (France) , also "Première armée française" (German 1st Army of France) again in the final phase of the Second World War a. a. from the regular French B Army (in the colonies) and demobilized in France after fighting in Germany in 1946 (8 brigades / divisions).
    • The 2 e armée (German 2nd Army) fought as part of the army in the First and Second World Wars, in the latter it was disbanded.
  • The Forces françaises en Allemagne (FFA) (translated French Forces in Germany ) went from parts of the 1 ere produced Armée and occupied as a victorious power within the four-power status southwestern Germany in the French zone . They were renamed Troupes Françaises d'Occupation en Allemagne in 1949 , Forces Françaises en Allemagne in 1950  , Forces françaises stationnées en Allemagne  (FFSA) in 1993 and Forces françaises et éléments civils stationnés en Allemagne (FFECSA) in 1999 .
  • Foreign Legion (since 1831)


  • The World Defense Almanac 2006. Mönch Publishing Group, Bonn 2006

Web links

Commons : French Armed Forces  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ministère des Armées, Les chiffres clés de la défense 2018, 11 September 2018
  2. Ministère des Armées, Les chiffres clés de la défense 2018, 11 September 2018
  3. ^ A b CIA World Factbook: Military section from the article on France. (English), military section from the article on France. Date of discovery: January 27, 2007.
  4. Budget de la mission “Defense”, hors budget des missions “  Anciens combattants , mémoire et liens avec la Nation” and “Recherche et enseignement supérieur”. Ce budget n'inclut pas celui de la Gendarmerie nationale qui figure dans celui de la "Mission Sécurités" du ministère de l'Intérieur .
  6. Y-Magazine of the Bundeswehr: France back in July 14, 2009
  7. Archive link ( Memento from August 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Ordonnance 59-147 of January 7, 1959, amended by the law of July 29, 2009; More details and evidence from fr: Sécurité nationale and z. B. Jacques Aben & Julien Malizard (2013), Sécurité nationale et décentralization , in: Liber amicorum: Hommage en l'honneur du professeur Jacques Fontanel, Verlag L 'Harmattan 2013, pp. 21–36
  9. quoted from Jacques Aben: De l'esprit de la défense ( Memento from August 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (pdf).
  10. See the Missions générales department at the French Ministry of Defense. Accessed January 20, 2007.
  11. ^ Organization chart of the Department of Defense at the French Embassy in the USA. Date of discovery: January 21, 2007 ( Memento of September 27, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  12. The death of conscription - BBC report of June 29, 2001. Date of discovery: February 3, 2007
  13. The English version of the Checkpoint military site with a message. Date of discovery: February 3, 2007
  14. BBC News: France salutes end of military service
  15. Defense: The French Way to the Professional Army. French Embassy in Berlin , December 11, 2015, accessed on September 23, 2017 .
  16. Defense: conscription and professionalization of the armed forces ( Memento from July 22, 2012 in the web archive )
  18. October 14, 2014: Sacrosanct, but not ready for action (like the Bundeswehr, the French armed forces are also in poor condition)
  19. ^ Nicolas Gros-Verheyde: Le Royaume-Uni, premier budget de defense en Europe? Vrai ou faux. In: B2 Le blog de l'Europe politique. November 23, 2018, accessed on May 5, 2020 (Fri-FR).
  20. Results of the research | Insee. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  21. Projet de loi de finances pour 2017: Defense. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  22. Wikiwix's cache. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  23. Wikiwix's cache. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  24. ^ Nicolas Gros-Verheyde: Le Royaume-Uni, premier budget de defense en Europe? Vrai ou faux. In: B2 Le blog de l'Europe politique. November 23, 2018, accessed on May 5, 2020 (Fri-FR).
  25. avec AFP: Les députés votent le budget 2020 de la Défense, à nouveau en bull. October 30, 2019, accessed May 5, 2020 (French).