• Short Summary

    France annual display of arms has opened at Satory, timed to coincide with the Paris Air Show, but without the same blare of publicity.

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    France annual display of arms has opened at Satory, timed to coincide with the Paris Air Show, but without the same blare of publicity.

    The French arms selling authority, the Delegation Militaire pour l'Armement, has a budget of three million pounds sterling (about $7 million) to invite and entertain valued clients interested in buying arms from France.

    From humble beginnings, France has grown to become a giant among arms makers. Last year, it overlook Britain to become the world's third largest arms dealer. France's arms exports have been boosted tenfold since 1965 and now account for six per cent of all its exports.

    Although still a long way behind the United States and the Soviet Union in Sales, France produces weapons that have become household names. There are the popular Mirage fighter-bombers, Alouette and Puma helicopters, the AMX-30 tank, the Exocet Crotale and Roland missiles.

    Although France recently suffered a setback by losing the contest to America to supply the four-nation NATO fighter contract (known as the "Arms Deal of the Century"), senior French officials are expecting a bumper year in world-wide arms sales.

    Mirage jets and helicopters account for 50 per cent of foreign orders received, with tanks, armoured vehicles and other material for land forces totalling 29 per cent, naval supplies making up 11 per cent and electronic equipment the remaining 10 per cent.

    The industry employs more than 250,000 people, rivalling the motor industry in size. The display of wares at Satory, on the road between Versailles and Paris, features over 600 different land-based weapons produced by about 100 companies.

    On Monday (9 June) arms buying delegations from 53 countries arrived to view them. Admission was by invitation only.

    The success in arms sales has met with sharp criticism from left-wing political parties and the Church in France. Opposition circles have denounced the Government for "merchandising death with the 'Made in France' label".

    But President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's Government has not been deterred from securing massive oil-for-arms deals with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait this year. Yet it is not only the Middle East market which has caused controversy in France.

    Trade with the former Greek Colonels, Spain and South Africa has also been criticised.

    In spite of this, France is expecting yet another improvement this year ... this time 50 per cent more in arms sales, bringing the total value to about 3.2 billion pounds sterling (about $7.5 million).

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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    Available on request
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