Apparently the French Army is a sad state:
According to confidential defence documents leaked to the French press, less than half of France's Leclerc tanks – 142 out of 346 – are operational and even these regularly break down.
Less than half of its Puma helicopters, 37 per cent of its Lynx choppers and 33 per cent of its Super Frelon models – built 40 years ago – are in a fit state to fly, according to documents seen by Le Parisien newspaper.
Two thirds of France's Mirage F1 reconnaissance jets are unusable at present.
Of course, the timing is a bit suspect:
The disclosure comes just ten days before President Nicolas Sarkozy announces a major reform of the armed forces, with a defence white paper outlining France's military priorities for the next 15 years.
He is expected to argue that the situation can only improve by reducing the number of France's operational troops from 50,000 to 30,000, and its fighter aircraft, as well as closing military bases.
He will also use the occasion to push for greater military integration in Europe, an issue that France will highlight when it takes over the EU's six-month rotating presidency in July.
French proposals circulating in Brussels show that France wants a new EU military headquarters based in the Belgian capital and run by Europe's new foreign policy chief. It is also calling for a bigger rapid reaction force and for countries to spend more on defence.
So France wants to spend less on defense but wants other EU nations to spend more. Nice.