To give all its full power to the French Navy, Naval Group must be cut out for the open sea. Because without exports, the tricolor naval champion, who can only rely on the national market alone, would weaken, would wither and would not remain at the level of the expectations of a national navy having both a vocation and a global ambition, including the Indo-Pacific, where Paris creates much more illusion than fear. This strategy, clearly displayed by Emmanuel Macron at the head of a country with a wealth of economic zone exclusive territory (EEZ) of more than 11 million km², is necessarily accompanied by a benchmark industrialist, a gondola head solid on its fundamentals (naval construction and adequate armaments) but also driven by technological innovation (lasers – effectors and communications -, dronization, interconnections with space, cyberdefense, quantum …)
A flagship guarantor of French independence
This champion must be Naval Group, capable of selling its ships worldwide (surface vessels, submarines, systems of systems) and supported by an efficient and innovative tricolor supply chain. It is at this price that it will remain this gondola head that France needs to establish very close bilateral relations with certain countries over a very long period (on the cost of owning a ship, which spreads over over 20 years). Partnerships that it will have chosen without any political, technological constraints, in terms of supplies and bank financing while remaining resilient to media pressure (NGOs, ESG criteria, European Commission).
Recently Naval Group did not wish for example submit a dollar offer in Colombia for the PES project in order not to be exposed to possible American lawsuits (extraterritorial regulations). The naval group is at a pivotal moment in its development, even if the Lorient site (surface ships) currently has work to do until 2028/2029: Emirati corvettes until 2023, FDI France frigates (first delivered in 2024) and Greek (2 ships delivered per year from 2025) but end of the FREMM program, the last of which the Lorraine will be delivered on November 3). The upcoming arrival of Marie-Laure Bourgeois (December 1) as head of the sales teams (France and export) will revitalize all of Naval Group’s sales policy in view of her long international experience at Thales.
If the naval group must be supported by the French State for export, it also has the duty to remain competitive against audacious but also unscrupulous competitors in terms of ethics (including Turkey and Israel) in a naval market. world military in full boiling (war in Ukraine, gradual rise in tensions with China, vulnerabilities in global underwater communications, energy, fisheries, rare earth tensions, etc.). This involves aggressive commercial campaigns in which the French team acts collectively (Naval Group, Thales, Safran, MBDA, ECA Group, in particular), the strengthening of resources for economic intelligence, the return of networks to the countries targets while remaining clean, and, finally, by a French State which remains uninhibited by arms sales. The Minister for the Armed Forces and his administration have a central role to play in this partition.
Cooperation, yes but programmatic
Finally, European cooperation can no longer be the Alpha and Omega of a strategy of a group of the strategic dimension of Naval Group, the keystone of French nuclear deterrence. For three reasons. Nuclear deterrence, which cannot be shared, is only possible if Naval Group maintains its skills and know-how within a complete group (submarines for the navy and for export). In addition, feedback from the cooperation forged in the early 1990s with Navantia (submarines) and more recently with Fincantieri (surface vessels) has proven to be failures. Neither Navantia nor Fincantieri have really played the game of cooperation, they have above all tried to take a competitive or even technological advantage within the framework of cooperation with Naval Group in order to weaken it.
Thirdly, the industrial and technological spectrum of the French champion is among one of the most complete in the European landscape (TKMS, Navantia, Fincantieri, Lürssen, Damen…) Which means that the 50/50 is a political construction far industrial reality. In light of these two observations, cooperation must be devoid of affect (the French evil) and opportunistic. In this sense, the European EPC program (European patrol corvette) is an excellent laboratory between Fincantieri, Naval Group and Navantia. As part of Naviris (joint venture between Naval Group and Fincantieri), France and Italy are working on an armed corvette of at least 3,000 tons with anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities.
What prospects for Naval Group?
For Naval Group, the return of the Euronaval show, which opens its doors on Tuesday, is a boon. Naval Group CEO Pierre Eric Pommellet and his sales teams will be able to take stock after the pandemic, which paralyzed trade in 2020 and part of 2021, on the challenges and needs of the navies with the arrival of more than 120 delegations from all over the world. Starting with the Greek Navy, which could notify “in the coming months” the fourth defense and intervention frigate (FDI) as an option for ” be delivered in 2026/2027”, we explain within the group. However, it could prove to be a nightmare for Naval Group, the price of this building being fixed because already negotiated within the framework of the contract signed in March 2022. On the other hand, the purchase of four corvettes has been postponed within the framework of short-term arbitration of Athens in favor of supporting the purchasing power of the Greeks in an inflationary period.
In the field of surface buildings, Naval Group has few projects underway with the exception of Romania and Saudi Arabia. Despite France’s policy of reinsurance in the context of the war in Ukraine (deployment of 750 French soldiers), Bucharest continues with the help of Damen to roll Naval Group in the flour in the file of the four Gowind corvettes, selected … in 2018. An offer that can be renewed until the end of 2023. Naval Group is not really helped either by its local partner SNC, which plays its own part. For its part, Saudi Arabia, which is watching very closely what is happening in Greece, is interested in IDFs equipped with Aster 15 and 30 anti-aircraft missiles which would be built in a local shipyard. The Kingdom needs frigates with the upcoming end of the Sawari 1 frigates and must also decide whether or not to modernize the Sawari 2 (3 buildings). This is the most important prospect for Naval Group, which is also eyeing the needs of the Norwegian navy.
In the field of submarines, the naval group has several prospects on fire in the more or less long term. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands, where the competition for four submarines (2.5 billion euros) could be relaunched with a new request for RFP (Request for proposal, technical and commercial proposal) at the time of the NEDS show (November 17). The RFP will indicate the real ambition of the Netherlands in terms of submarines. Associated with the Dutch group Royal IHC, Naval Group will once again offer the Black Sword Barracuda (3,000 tons) and will find the German TKMS and the Swedish Saab. The group is also monitoring several needs in Asia (Indonesia, Philippines where Scorpène is in the running in both countries), in South America (Chile, Argentina) but also in Egypt, Morocco (in the longer term), and even in Australia. … Marie-Laure Bourgeois will therefore quickly plunge into the bath.