Today is the first anniversary of the Libyan uprising in which Britain and France put the bilateral defense and security cooperation agreement they reached in November 2010 to practical testing. Coincidentally a U.K.-French defense and security summit was held in Paris today at which British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said they were “determined to sustain a high level of defense spending, flexible and rapidly deployable forces, interoperability with our allies and a solid industrial basis.”
They noted that their “cooperation in Libya has been a defining moment – and one on which we will continue to build in the future,” and that “the shared experience has validated and accelerated our cooperation.”
Since the end of the Libyan conflict both countries' defense officials have had time to analyze the lessons learned during this seven-month operation and so “have decided to prioritize our joint work in the key areas of: command and control; information systems; intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance; and precision munitions.”
No doubt frustrated at the lack of any notable progress that has been made in building up the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy and its related institutions since Catherine Ashton took over the job of EU High Representative from former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in December 2009, Cameron and Sarkozy today also agreed to go-it alone and set concrete ambitions for the combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) that they had agreed to set up in November 2010. The force will be an early entry force which should be fully operational in 2016 and available to confront all levels of threat in bilateral, NATO, EU, UN or other operations.
In addition a major French-U.K. joint sea, land and air exercise, Corsican Lion, will be conducted later this year ... in the Mediterranean obviously, given its name!
They also agreed to establish a deployable Combined Joint Force Headquarters by 2016 using existing French and U.K. high-readiness national Force Headquarters staff but that can be extended to include staff from other nations participating in a multinational operation.
Where defense equipment is concerned they agreed to take forward planned cooperation on unmanned air systems and said they would “shortly place with BAE Systems and Dassault a jointly funded contract to study the technical risks associated with the MALE [medium altitude long endurance] UAV [unmanned air vehicle].
The text also mentions the Watchkeeper drone which France will start evaluating this year, the A400M, submarine technologies, and confirmation of other areas of interest that were mentioned in the November 2010 Lancaster House agreement.
There are 37 separate points in today's document. You can read a full version of it here.