"Their business is war, and they do their business."
The French Armed Forces.
Rifles Of Revolutionaries
The current assault rifle of the French military is the FAMAS. Dubbed "the bugle" for a while on account of its appearance, it's a Cool Gun
and is forever remembered as the weapon of Solid Snake
French military vehicles and nukes
France has a pretty notable military, with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (appropriately named the Charles de Gaulle
). A conventional one was on order, but has since been cancelled.
France is a nuclear weapons state
. Most of its missiles are now carried by submarines, but it has some air-launched missiles and formerly had land-launched ones too.
Dassault is a world-known military aircraft company. Its most famous product is the Mirage fighter series, sold to quite a few countries worldwide. Oddly, the most notable use of Dassault equipment is when the IDF
brought them to bear during the Suez Crisis and Six Day War
Its latest product is the Rafale
, which is ultimately going to replace seven current aircraft
types in French service. The most expensive variant of the Rafale comes with a 90 million Euro price tag, which is still only about 2/3 the cost of an American F-22 Raptor or JSF, for a role not dissimilar to the later : an "omnirole" fighter with both air force and naval versions (though without VTOL), able to take nearly any role including SEAD and nuclear strikes
. On the other hand, its approach to stealth is different from the JSF : instead of aiming for Very Low Observable
, it is Low Observable but with a few tricks, as being able to fly a few feet above groundnote
to hide from long-range radars and distant enemy planes, and a very
advanced ECM suite for short-range threats.
While its reputation in the English-speaking countries is of an overpriced toy, or at best decent but inferior to the Eurofighter, recent years proved this quite false. Battle-proven in Afghanistan, it later illustrated itself in Libya with bombing run deeper in the enemy air defence network than any other NATO plane. It was apparently considered superior to the Eurofighter and the Gripen NG by the Swiss forces, who finally declined it for cost reasons. And French Rafale pilots tend to fare really well
in inter-army exercises, to the point that the RAF repeated refusal to exercise against them after a particularly one-sided
match. Also, it is the first plane to shoot an enemy down from behind with a missile during an exercise, thanks to targeting data from another Rafale.
The AMX-56 Leclerc is France's current main battle tank, made by Nexter of France, formerly GIAT. Developed in 1991, it replaced the AMX 30 from the Cold War. The Leclerc uses non-explosive reactive armor, as opposed to the explosive reactive armor found on most tanks. It carries a 120mm smoothbore cannon that can theoretically fire any NATO standard ammunition, but typically carries French-made ammo. While not having been combat proven yet, it is already well known for having excellent
mobility, but is the most expensive tank manufactured, with each unit costing three times as much
as an M1A2 Abrams.
However, France tend to use light armor like the wheeled AMX-10 RC when they don't expect to meet anything heavier than a T-62, as those are faster, better on rough or mountainous terrain
, and way cheaper
Another famous piece of French military tech is the Exocet anti-shipping missile, made most famous by the Falklands War. There are air-launched, sub-launched and ship-launched versions, the missiles being widely exported. To give you an idea of its capability, HMS Sheffield
was sunk by one that failed to explode.
French naval officers are not called "mon capitaine", but just "capitaine", unlike the other branches.
- This is because the mon signifies monsieur (mister) rather than the possessive mon (my). It is an honorific. Napoleon, however, had little respect for the French navy, mostly because of Trafalgar defeat, and denied them that honor.
Despite the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys
stereotype, France actually has a pretty good war record. Whether ultimately winning the Hundred Years War
against England, fighting and winning against large coalitions under Louis XIV
, providing naval aid and essential supplies to the colonial forces during the The American Revolution
, defeating the rest of Europe in the French Revolutionary Wars, nearly conquering
the rest of the continent in the Napoleonic Wars, or fighting toe to toe with the German Empire
during World War I
, France has a remarkable military history that's only taken a beating due to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 (or so), their thrashing from the British in the Napoleonic Era, World War II
and subsequent colonial defeats at the hands of countries like Algeria and Indochina
(Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). It should be noted that France is the only other country besides Germany, Poland-Lithuania and the Mongol Empire to have gotten close to or captured Moscow in an invasion of Russia; the difference being that they lost because the Russians burned Moscow to the ground rather than let the French take it. In the First World War, 1.5 million young French men were killed in battle. The Battle of France wasn't lost because of any lack of badass on the part of the French and British. It was lost due to serious strategic blunders on the part of the French generals.
Then of course, there is the legendary French Resistance and the counterattack under Leclerc (not the tank, the man) to retake France in the Allies Normandy Campaign. This is an often forgotten chapter outside France but one they were heavily involved in and just as deserving of credit for as the Americans and British.
Nowadays, while suffering from repeated budget cuts like many European armies since the Cold War ended, it still remains a very competent army. In particular, the recent operation in Mali is widely regarded as an outstanding military success, storming even the Islamist forces even in their mountains and pretty much destroying them before they could be entrenched like they did in Afghanistan.
The French military in fiction
The Foreign Legion
The most notable part is The French Foreign Legion, romanticised as a place for a man to start anew and featured in a lot of works of media
Any one joining the Foreign Legion gets a new identity and
French nationality at the end of their service. If
you're French to begin with, you can pick new nationality (usually Belgian, Swiss, or Canadian)note
while you're in the Legion. Nowadays, you can also keep your French nationality. Note that despite its name, all its officers are actually French, as well as about 30% of its troops.
Historically, the Legion's promise of a new identity attracted many criminals and other shady elements. Today the Legion is considered a highly prestigious elite combat unit, and so there are rigorous background checks, so this isn't necessarily true anymore. While they offer a new identity, you can still be pursued for blood
The Foreign Legion is also known for its especially brutal training methods
. It was considered normal for a certain percentage of Legion recruits to die during training, though now they simply won't recruit those judged physically unable to complete it, let alone die. The Naval Commandos (think French SAS) have an even harsher training , considered one of the harshest in any military.
Its role changed from Cannon Fodder
to a small, elite force
, with its own light armor regiment, as well as its own elite regiment
, the 2e REP.
- Parodied in Discworld when Death joins the Klatchian Foreign Legion.
- Looney Tunes: Pepe Le Pew joins up at one point. And somehow finds a black cat ...
- Laurel and Hardy: The Flying Deuces, in which the duo join the Foreign Legion.
- Asterix the Legionary provides a parody of the Foreign Legion and its training methods in ancient Rome.
- The Mummy starts with main character Rick O'Connell and his back-stabbing sidekick Beni Gabor in the French Foreign Legion fighting against Arabs on a quest to find the lost ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra.
- In the Hoka series of stories, a group of overly-imaginative alien anthropomorphic teddy bears have formed their own French Foreign Legion, and end up getting convinced by a human diplomat to travel to another planet with him to rescue his wife from a primitive alien tribe who have made her queen and are giving her many fattening meals as tribute.
- Beau Geste and its numerous adaptations, including of course Snoopy's adventures near Fort Zinderneuf as Beau Snoopy.
General, before the 20th century:
- The novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and its various sequels, adaptations and spin-offs. D'Artagnan is loosely based on a real officer of the royal Musketeers.
- The play Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand and its film versions. Also based on a real soldier.
- The two versions of Fanfan la Tulipe.
- Jean Renoir's movie La Marseillaise.
- The French government and armed forces appear in several of The Big One series books. The portrayal is usually very positive although the Vichy French collaborationist government is depicted as weak and venal. Other than that, the French armed forces are seen as being capable, courageous, magnanimous in victory and going down fighting when faced with defeat. In A Mighty Endeavor, France manages to carry on fighting for ten days after being left in the lurch by the British armistice with Germany. One of the two protagonists in the novella "Eye of the Despoiler" is a French paratrooper who is portrayed as brave, competent and unstintingly loyal to his friends.
- In Red Storm Rising, French F-8 Crusaders (retired from US service not too long after Vietnam) operating from the carrier Foch, thanks to a diversion drawing off US Navy aircraft, are the only naval aircraft to successfully engage Soviet Backfires that sent a Macross Missile Massacre at the NATO carrier battlegroup. Unfortunately, the few bombers shot down were only lost after the missiles had hit, which not only severely damaged (possibly destroyed) the Foch, but put a hurt on several US warships, including the carrier USS Nimitz, where one of the main protagonists was located at the time.
- French tank units are involved in the fighting against the Posleen, in John Ringo's Gust Front, along with US and German tank units, holding the line until the ACS under "Mighty Mite" can break out and mangle the Posties. The French leadership in general tends to get looked down upon by Ringo in general, but he doesn't carry that over to their armed forces.
- Modern Warfare 3 features a mission where an American Delta Force team links up with French GIGN special forces operators to capture a Russian bombmaker.
- Hitman Codename 47: 47's "fathers" were all soldiers in the Foreign Legion, with the exception Dr. Ort-Meyer.
- The film The Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir.
- The film Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick.
- The novel and film A Very Long Engagement.
- French soldiers are available to NATO in Wargame: European Escalation, and their AMX tanks and FAMAS-wielding infantry are actually some of the most useful units in the game.