Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 18:29 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 18:29 | SYDNEY

UK-France defence treaty: The happy few

3 November 2010 10:26

Justin Jones is Navy Fellow at the Lowy Institute and is the maritime adviser to the MacArthur Foundation Lowy Institute Asia Security Project.

In the wake of the recent UK Defence Review and big defence cuts, Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have signed a remarkable — indeed unprecedented — defence agreement. The crux of the agreement is:

  • Shared facilities to test nuclear warheads.
  • A joint expeditionary force, drawn from 5000 troops from each country.
  • Use of each other's aircraft carriers for training and possibly military operations.
  • More co-operation on dealing with cyber attacks and developing unmanned aerial drones.
  • Shared resources on training, maintenance and logistics of A400M transport aircraft.

Mr Cameron was careful to state that 'Britain and France are, and will always remain, sovereign nations, able to deploy our armed forces independently and in our national interest when we choose to do so.'

The obvious question posed by the media related to how the arrangements for the shared carrier and joint expeditionary force would work when one country supported military action and the other did not (aka. The Falklands). Both leaders deflected the question.

What of intelligence sharing' The AUS-CAN-UK-US community is a long-standing intelligence alliance and it is difficult to imagine that the US, in particular, would be happy to share intelligence that might fall into French hands during a joint, combined operation.

On a related matter, the announcement that British pilots will fly from the French aircraft carrier will be of interest to passionate naval observers. The latest edition of The Navy, magazine of the Navy League of Australia, is chock full of articles relating to the RAN's forthcoming Canberra Class LHDs, including two pieces covering close air support; that is, flying fixed-wing jets from the LHD. One is written by a former Sea Harrier pilot and the other by no less than Norman Friedman.

It seems to me that, outside the Navy, the debate has begun in earnest on the potential for operating fixed-wing aircraft from the LHDs.