The French Armed Forces, one of the world's oldest and finest.
Rifles Of Revolutionaries
For decades, the iconic assault rifle of the French military was the FAMAS. Dubbed "the bugle" for a while on account of its appearance, it's forever remembered as the weapon of Solid Snake. Its early bullpup design gave it a compact design, making it handier in close-quarter combat, while retaining great precision at longer range, at the price of a time of adaptation for those not accustomed to bullpup rifles. It is also one of the first assault rifles with both right-handed and left-handed settings for case ejection, though one needs to disassemble it to change it. However, despite clever design and great performances during tests for its time, it was also a maintenance hog, and prone to jam on the field - partially due to some highly constraining norms some Obstructive Bureaucrat imposed on its slack (such as optimizing it for a different type of 5.56x45mm ammunition than either the original American M193 or the current NATO standard SS109, and adopting a disposable magazine not intended for reuse...but then reusing them anyway to save money).
More recent versions lessened some of its problems, but as it definitely showed its age (and due to budget cuts the most improved version only drew a small order from the French Navy), the French Army officially switched to the German HK416 in 2017, with a complete replacement of the FAMAS planned for 2020.
It is also the first army to put its own Future Soldier equivalent up, the FÉLIN system. Among other things, it includes a camera mounted on the rifle instead of the sight, whose image is directly projected on the soldier's glasses (including HUD stuff like data and icons), also used for all sorts of information network goodness. Initially deployed in 2011 in Afghanistan, it showed great effectiveness since, despite the increased weight.
French military vehicles and nukes
France has a pretty notable military, with the sole non-American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (appropriately named the Charles de Gaulle) in the world. A conventional one was on order, but has since been cancelled due to the ever-present budget limits.
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, with the original Mirage III being one of the best-selling fighters of all time. 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 cheaper than the cost of an American F-22 Raptor while also being multi-use as an "omnirole" fighter with both air force and naval versions, able to take nearly any role including nuclear strikes. On the other hand, its approach to stealth is different from the F-22 : instead of aiming for Very Low Observable, it is Low Observable but with a few tricks, such as SPECTRA, an ECM system to hide from long-range radars and distant enemy planes by spoofing their signals to "pretend" it's not there. It is of particular note for the speed of its development on an industrial level, starting behind its greatest rival (The Eurofighter Typhoon) and yet got into service first without compromising its ability in the haste... But also for the several reasons that caused France to leave the Eurofighter projectnote . The Rafale is scheduled to retire in 2035 and be replaced by the FCAS, a joint project between France, Spain and Germany.
It has seen plenty of flying hours, thoroughly proving itself in Afghanistan, Libya and then Mali. It has also performed recon over Nigeria to help search for missing hostages and regularly makes dramatic demonstrations at airshows, more than once becoming the favourite on show.
The Char Leclercnote 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 (its unique armor gives it a weight a full 12 tons lighter than the M1A2 Abrams and 5 tons lighter than the Leopard 2A6, the most advanced iterations of its American and German counterparts, and allows for the best power-to-weight ratio of any main battle tank), but is the second most expensive tank manufactured (it was dethroned by the South Koren K-2 Black Panther), with each unit costing three times as much as an M1A2 Abrams. France and Germany are currently working together to create the EMBT, a new generation tank scheduled to replace both French Leclercs and German Leopards.
However, France tend to use light armor like the wheeled VBCI 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. A new light armored vehicle, the Jaguar, is scheduled to enter service in 2020 and replace the VBCI as well as several other light armored vehicles.
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," or, more literally, "my lord") 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 up until the 20th century. 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 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 eventual close and hard-fought defeat against massive coalition forces (often disingenuously presented as only or mainly British) in the Napoleonic Era, World War II and subsequent colonial defeats at the hands of countries like Algerianote and Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). It should be noted that France is the only other country besides the Mongol Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to have actually captured Moscow in an invasion of Russia; the only difference being the Russians burned it 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 in 1940 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, hubris, Head-in-the-Sand Management and critical lack of innovation on the part of the French generals.
Then of course, there is the legendary French Resistance and the counterattacks under Leclerc (not the tank, the man) to retake France in the Allies Normandy Campaign and its follow-up through Germany ; and the fierce combats in North Africa where the lesser-known general König, assisted by the British, managed to slow down Rommel's Afrikakorps. 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 (military budget is, however, on the rise since 2016) 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 could reach the heart of Mali's cities.
The Armed Forces, since the French terror attacks of 2014 and 2015, have also been active fighting the forces of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan and other terror hotspots while helping to defend the whole of France and its overseas territories. To help achieve these responsbilities in a changing world the National Guard was officially reestablished in the fall of 2016 - 145 years since its disbandment - this time as an independent branch of the armed forces.
An oddity of the French military in the modern age (the practice used to be commonplace) is that the Gendarmerie Nationale actually still is a gendarmerie (a branch of the military used for civilian law enforcement) rather than (as is common in former French colonies) simply retaining the Gendarmerie name out of tradition after becoming a civilian police force. Thanks to its dual role as military and police, the Gendarmerie Mobile subdivision was until 2010 (when budget cuts forced their retirement) probably the only police force in the world to equipped with tank destroyers.
Service BranchesThe Armed Forces are the direct responsility of the President of France, who serves as commander-in-chief, through the offices of the Minister of Defence with operational responsibility under the Chief of the Defence Staff, divided into 5 service brances plus the service support commands under the direct responsibility of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence.
The French military in fiction
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 (including, in the aftermath of World War II, some captured Waffen-SS soldiers who were given the option to enlist to avoid execution). 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 or "mores" crimes.
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.
One of the Foreign Legion's more high-profile missions today is as security-detail at the European Space Agency's Kourou Launch Complex in French Guiana, launch-site of the Ariane rockets.
- 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 derivative works, set in the first half of the 17th century. Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan were loosely based on real Musketeers. The 2023 version notably features The Siege of La Rochelle, which is oftentimes ignored by adaptations.
- The play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand and its 1990 film version (17th century) feature him and Christian at war in the final act. Also based on a real soldier.
- Cartouche (18th century)
- Fanfan la Tulipe and its 2003 remake (both set during the Seven Years' War in the 18th century).
- Jean Renoir's La Marseillaise.
- Numerous works about the Napoleonic Wars, naturally. An exhaustive list can be found here, but some on film and television are particularly worth mentioning such as 1927's Napoléon, 1960's Austerlitz, 1970's Waterloo, 2002's Napoléon and 2023's Napoleon.
- The 7th Company is a comedy film series that follows the antics of three not very bright French soldiers who gets lost on the front in summer 1940 as German soldiers start occupying the country.
- The French government and armed forces appear in several of The Big One series of 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.
- They are featured in a couple of missions in World in Conflict. In the flashback chapter of the main storyline they, along with the Americans and other NATO forces, are attempting to drive back a Soviet invasion of southern France. A French officer, Commandant Sabatier, serves as one of your allies for the first of these missions (his forces are off-screen in the second, but the troops you command are still part of the French Army).
- In A Giant Sucking Sound, France leads Europe into a War on Terror in Algeria after a terrorist attack that destroys the Eiffel Tower and kills hundreds.
- Jean Larteguy's novels, The Centurions and The Praetorians, depict a squad of French paratroops serving in Indochina, Algeria and the Suez Crisis. The books chronicle their disillusionment with French politicians miring them in unwinnable wars, culminating in several joining Charles de Gaulle's 1958 coup d'état. The main protagonist, Lt. Colonel Raspeguy, is based on famous paratroop commander Marcel Bigeard. The Centurions became a poorly-reviewed movie, Lost Command, starring Anthony Quinn and Alain Delon.
- The CIA campaign of Phantom Doctrine starts in 1983 in Beirut (during the Lebanese Civil War) and occasionally features French soldiers as hostile mooks (who wield AKs instead of FAMAS).'
- Scottish Indie Pop band Camera Obscura's "French Navy" (the lead single from their 2009 album My Maudlin Career) appears to be a love song by a British woman who's fallen hopelessly in love with a French Navy officer to her Gallic boyfriend.