France to Cut US-made Components from its Military Products

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France is working to reduce US-made components from its defense products so as not to run afoul of the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which allow Washington to veto sale to countries it does not approve of.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Yesterday that reducing dependence on US-made components was necessary so as not to hinder the export of French military products. France has had to time and again seek US permission to export products even if a very small component by value or importance was included in the French system.

Florence Parly said, “We need to gradually de-sensitize ourselves in relation to a certain number of American components, which does not necessarily mean being able to de-sensitize completely,” she explained during a meeting with the Association of Professional Journalists (Aeronautics and Space) in comments widely quoted in the French media.

She said that France has launched a plan to reduce dependence on certain American components; “We have encountered difficulties related to export prospects, and we know that these difficulties are apparently linked to strategic questions and in reality often due to problems of commercial competition,” she explained.

Under US ITAR regulations, if a foreign-made arms system contains even one US component, the United States has the power to prohibit its export to a third country. Recently the US blocked the sale of the French-made Scalp cruise missile which was to arm the Rafale fighter jet, meant for export to Egypt and Qatar.

In 2013, Washington had refused a request for re-export from France to the United Arab Emirates of “Made in USA” components needed to manufacture two French spy satellites by Airbus and Thales. François Hollande’s visit to the United States in February 2014 had positively resolved this issue.

During her hearing last July in the National Assembly, Florence Parly had acknowledged that “we are at the mercy of the Americans when our materials are concerned. Do we have the means to be completely independent of the American components, I do not think so, are we trying to improve the situation, the answer is yes.”

Florence Parly argued that this lower dependence (on the US) would be crucial for the viability of the future combat aircraft program. It goes for Paris and Berlin to have the capacity to export this future weapon system. It considered that manufacturers should take this issue into account by launching investments in research and technology to be able to manufacture a similar component that would escape the ITAR scrutiny. “Some manufacturers have understood,” she said.

Meanwhile, European missile manufacturer MBDA has already started the process of making its products ITAR-free. Its future air-to-air missile MICA-NG which will be operational in 2025, will be free of ITAR-restricted components, La Tribune reported.