Wednesday, March 01, 2023

France Flexes its Military Muscle

 Last week France launched Orion 23, months-long military exercises involving thousands of troops, naval and land vehicles, aircraft and an aircraft carrier. 

It is France’s biggest war games in decades, involving around 12,000 troops including those from NATO allies.  With an estimated cost of €35 million, Orion 23 is being conducted on an unprecedented scale.

The exercises involve personnel from a range of European countries, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as the United States. The exercises are scheduled to end in May and should eventually mobilise 2,300 vehicles, 40 helicopters, some 100 drones and 30 naval vessels, including the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. 

For the purposes of the war games over the weekend, French troops were landing on “Arnland” – a fictitious allied nation – that was being attacked by its imaginary neighbour, “Mercure”. Mercure, the hypothetical enemy, has military and geostrategic ambitions that may sound familiar to those who have followed the news over the past 12 months: Mercure is trying to establish its regional dominance by financing a separatist militia to destabilise southern Arnland. It has deployed conventional military forces to its neighbouring state, cut off communications and launched a disinformation campaign.  Arnland, weakened and on the verge of collapse, has turned to its allies for help. Around 12,000 troops in total will be deployed on the ground and in the skies to repel a high-intensity air-land invasion of “Arnland” by “Mercure”. 

 France’s military defence spending has been boosted to €413 billion ($446 billion) for the 2024-2030 period – up from €295 billion allocated in the previous budget, a 30% increase.

‘Orion’ military exercises: A fictitious war, but a real test for French troops (

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