UK, France tighten defence ties with drone and missile projects

By on Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Britain and France brought their defence cooperation closer on Friday, announcing joint projects to build combat drones and unmanned anti-mine vehicles.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande struck a series of deals in a one-day summit at the Brize Norton airbase in Oxfordshire, southern England.

They also announced joint training exercises and closer logistics operations.

“We recognise that if we, Britain and France, do more together, our defence budgets will go further, our armed forces will benefit from better equipment and our defence industries will remain world leaders and we will be able to have a greater global impact,” Cameron said.

He announced they would invest 120 million pounds ($200 million, 145 million euros) together in the feasibility phase of an unmanned combat air vehicle.

“We will work together to design a new unmanned maritime vehicle to counter seabed mines,” he added.

France announced a 500 million pounds agreement for anti-ship missiles to equip helicopters from both countries.

The missiles are a joint enterprise between BAE Systems, Airbus Group and Finmeccanica of Italy.

In another agreement, British and French troops will hold a landing exercise for their joint expeditionary force later this year.

Hollande said Britain would also test France’s VCBI armoured personnel carrier with a view to purchasing it.

“We have a very long-established, firm bond between our countries in terms of defence,” the French president said.

“We are two great countries and we have worldwide responsibilities. The UK and France are permanent members of the (UN) Security Council and our defence efforts, despite all out budgetary difficulties, have been maintained.

“We’re in the same alliance, we are also independent and it’s important that two major European nations could come together in choices concerning defence.”

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the summit agreements would improve the inter-operability of British and French forces, enhance joint equipment procurement and build on their capacity to support military operations such as those witnessed in Libya and Mali.

London and Paris have forged ever-closer military ties in recent years as they both try to recover from the global economic downturn.

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