France lines up armed drones amid plans to boost military spending
France will be the EU’s only nuclear-armed nation when Britain leaves the bloc next year.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is ramping up military spending, arming drones and hiring more “cyberfighters” for Europe’s biggest army.
The move comes amid demands from Nato and US President Donald Trump for European countries to pitch in more for their own defence.
The French defence minister presented a bill foreseeing 295 billion euros (£257 billion) in overall defence spending from 2019 to 2025.
That includes 1.7 billion euros (£1.48 billion) in additional spending each year through until 2022, particularly to modernise equipment and improve intelligence.
“The world is more uncertain, and the threats are more and more diffuse,” defence minister Florence Parly told reporters, noting growing demands for domestic military deployment after a string of deadly extremist attacks.
She insisted that France needs more defence spending to maintain its global influence and “intervene where its interests are threatened, and where it’s needed for international stability”.
France has thousands of troops overseas, from the Middle East to Africa, and will be the EU’s only nuclear-armed nation when Britain leaves the bloc next year.
The military upgrade is part of Mr Macron’s efforts to beef up collective European defence capacity and strengthen the EU as Brexit looms.
The plan aims to fulfil Mr Macron’s campaign promises last year to raise defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2025, in line with what Nato wants from all members.
At a Nato summit in May, Mr Trump reiterated longstanding US pressure on allies to increase military spending.
After a steady decline in defence spending and personnel cuts under Mr Macron’s predecessors, the government is now promising 6,000 more jobs by 2025.
The bill also includes France’s first armed drones, new nuclear combat submarines, more fighter planes and new intelligence satellites.
The bill will go to parliament, where it is expected to face a few months of discussion before a final vote this summer.
France’s military chief quit last year after a spat with Mr Macron over defence budget cuts.