Showing posts with label French industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French industry. Show all posts

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Precious little bottles marked V and H

Once upon a time, a con man in France made money by flogging little bottles marked V (vinaigre) and H (huile) to naive tourists, telling them that they once belonged to the great writer Victor Hugo.

Concerning vinegar, one might imagine that everything in France that can be said and done is a thing of the past. Imaginative rural sisters in the Beaujolais region, Lucie and Chloé (what charming names!) have demonstrated that there’s still room for innovation in this traditional domain. Using their grandmother’s ancient recipe, they created a new variety of vinegar, and they’ve already put 100,000 nice little bottles of their product onto the market. Several big distribution channels have jumped upon their offer. Also a celebrated French chef in Lyon. To say the least, their business doesn’t really have a bitter taste of vinegar.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

India buys French Rafale fighter planes

India has confirmed the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter planes, totally made-in-France by Dassault. Details of the deal have not been made public, but it's probably in the vicinity of 8 billion dollars.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

France also builds great trains

If you've visited France recently, you may have had an opportunity of seeing the great trains called TGV: Trains à grande vitesse (high-speed trains), which have become world-famous.

The French company Alstom has just succeeded in signing a huge deal of 1.8 billion euros to provide such trains to the USA... of all customers.

Whichever way you look at it, this kind of business feels more pleasant than the sale of military equipment. The two activities are actually complementary in a subtle fashion. You might say that French industry has many different feathers in its cap. And they're all fine feathers that earn our poor nation enough cash to put a bit of butter in our humble spinach... façon de parler!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Submarine leak

Let’s suppose you’ve just ordered an impressive automobile, made in France, and that you suddenly learn that detailed technical descriptions of the manufacturer’s electronic devices for automobiles have just been stolen. As a future owner of a product from that French manufacturer, you might feel worried.

That kind of situation has just arisen in Australia concerning their massive order for French submarines. In a nutshell, the Australian press has revealed that a massive leak has been detected, apparently in India (?), concerning a model of the Scorpène submarine, manufactured by the French shipbuilder DCNS, and sold to the navies of India, Malasia, Chili and Brazil.

Worker at DCNS

Scorpène submarine

Let me point out immediately that the Scorpène is not the model sold to Australia, whose order concerns the Barracuda submarine, quite different to the Scorpène. Not surprisingly, France and the French manufacturer DCNS will be carrying out an in-depth investigation into the Scorpène leak. For the moment, nothing indicates that this Scorpène leak might present the slightest problem to Australia's future maritime defence.

You might subscribe to The Australian in order to obtain an original article on this leak. Here are some extracts of this article that were sent to me this morning by a political contact:

Our French submarine builder in massive leak scandal

The French company that won the bid to design Australia’s new $50 billion submarine fleet has suffered a massive leak of secret documents, raising fears about the future security of top-secret data on the navy’s future fleet.

The stunning leak, which runs to 22,400 pages and has been seen by The Australian, details the ­entire secret combat capability of the six Scorpene-class submarines that French shipbuilder DCNS has designed for the Indian Navy.

A variant of the same French-designed Scorpene is also used by the navies of Malaysia, Chile and, from 2018, Brazil, so news of the Edward Snowden-sized leak — ­revealed today — will trigger alarm at the highest level in these countries. Marked “Restricted Scorpene India”, the DCNS documents ­detail the most sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $US3 bn ($3.9bn) submarine fleet and would provide an ­intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such as Pakistan or China.

The leak will spark grave concern in Australia and especially in the US where senior navy officials have privately expressed fears about the security of top-secret data entrusted to France.

In April DCNS, which is two-thirds owned by the French government, won the hotly contested bid over Germany and Japan to design 12 new submarines for Australia. Its proposed submarine for Australia — the yet-to-be-built Shortfin Barracuda — was chosen ahead of its rivals because it was considered to be the quietest in the water, making it perfectly suited to intelligence-gathering operations against China and others in the ­region.

Any stealth advantage for the navy’s new submarines would be gravely compromised if data on its planned combat and performance capabilities was leaked in the same manner as the data from the ­Scorpene. The leaked DCNS data details the secret stealth capabilities of the six new Indian submarines, including what frequencies they gather intelligence at, what levels of noise they make at various speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance — all sensitive information that is highly classified. The data tells the submarine crew where on the boat they can speak safely to avoid ­detection by the enemy. It also discloses magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data as well as the specifications of the submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system.

It details the speed and conditions needed for using the periscope, the noise specifications of the propeller and the radiated noise levels that occur when the submarine surfaces.

The data seen by The Australian includes 4457 pages on the submarine’s underwater sensors, 4209 pages on its above-water sensors, 4301 pages on its combat management system, 493 pages on its torpedo launch system and specifications, 6841 pages on the sub’s communications system and 2138 on its navigation systems.

The Australian has chosen to redact sensitive information from the documents.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important to note the submarine DCNS was building for India was a completely different model to the one it will build for Australia and the leaked information was a few years out of date. Nevertheless, any leak of classified information was a concern.

“We have the highest security protections on all of our defence information, whether it is in partnership with other countries or entirely within Australia,” he told the Seven Network today.

“But clearly, it is a reminder that, particularly in this digital world, cyber security is of critical importance.”

Influential senator Nick Xenophon said he would pursue the security breach when parliament returns next week.

Senator Xenophon, who leads a bloc of three senators, said Australia needed serious explanations from DCNS, the federal government and the Defence Department about any implications for Australia.

“This is really quite disastrous to have thousands of pages of your combat system leaked in this way,” the senator told ABC radio.

Sea trials for the first of India’s six Scorpene submarines began in May. The project is running four years behind schedule.

The Indian Navy has boasted that its Scorpene submarines have superior stealth features, which give them a major advantage against other submarines.

The US will be alarmed by the leak of the DCNS data because Australia hopes to install an American combat system — with the latest US stealth technology — in the French Shortfin Barracuda.

If Washington does not feel confident that its “crown jewels’’ of stealth technology can be protected, it may decline to give Australia its state-of-the-art combat system.

DCNS yesterday sought to ­reassure Australians that the leak of the data on the Indian Scorpene submarine would not happen with its proposed submarine for Australia. The company also implied — but did not say directly — that the leak might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France. “Uncontrolled technical data is not possible in the Australian ­arrangements,” the company said. “Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded. In the case of India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company, DCNS is the provider and not the controller of technical data.

“In the case of Australia, and unlike India, DCNS is both the provider and in-country controller of technical data for the full chain of transmission and usage over the life of the submarines.”

However, The Australian has been told that the data on the Scorpene was written in France for India in 2011 and is suspected of being removed from France in that same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS subcontractor.

The data is then believed to have been taken to a company in Southeast Asia, possibly to assist in a commercial venture for a ­regional navy.

It was subsequently passed by a third party to a second company in the region before being sent on a data disk by regular mail to a company in Australia. It is unclear how widely the data has been shared in Asia or whether it has been obtained by foreign ­intelligence agencies.

The data seen by The Australian also includes separate confidential DCNS files on plans to sell French frigates to Chile and the French sale of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship carrier to Russia. These DCNS projects have no link to India, which adds weight to the probability that the data files were removed from DCNS in France.

DCNS Australia this month signed a deed of agreement with the Defence Department, ­paving the way for talks over the contract which will guide the design phase of the new ­submarines. The government plans to build 12 submarines in Adelaide to replace the six-boat Collins-class fleet from the early 2030s. The Shortfin Barracuda will be a slightly shorter, conventionally powered version of France’s new fleet of Barracuda-class nuclear submarines.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said his officials believed the leak had “no bearing” on the Australia’s submarine program.

“The Future Submarine Program operates under stringent security requirements that govern the manner in which all information and technical data is managed now and into the future,” Mr Pyne’s office said in a statement.

“The same requirements apply to the protection of all sensitive information and technical data for the Collins class submarines, and have operated successfully for decades.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Big business

Kuwait has just announced its purchase of 30 French Caracal helicopters, for a billion euros. France may be performing in a mediocre fashion at Rio, but we sure know how to produce and sell advanced military equipment.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

France has ordered French drones

Last week, the French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed a contract of 350 million euros with the manufacturer Sagem for the purchase of 24 French Patroller drones, which have been tested satisfactorily for the last nine years in Afghanistan.

This drone can transmit high-quality images, and can carry a load of 250 kg of electronic surveillance equipment. Even in total darkness, this drone can detect whether a fellow on the ground is carrying either a simple bag of food or rather a kalachnikov weapon. This drone can even carry a human observer, to control operations programmed from the ground. In that way, the drone can legally operate in the same style as a conventional aircraft. (To my mind, that nevertheless sounds like an intrepid job for a passenger.)

Several Asian and Middle East nations have already expressed their interest in purchasing this French drone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is ancient France disappearing?

Readers who know French will have understood that my title is an awkward attempt to translate our fear that « la France d’autrefois fout le camp ». The concept of a legendary France has always been fuzzy but nevertheless perfectly real... at least in my mind. And the rhetorical question behind the present blog post might be rephrased as follows: Are there alarming signs, at the present moment, suggesting that the France of our dreams might be receding inexorably into the world of dreams?

Let’s leave aside Vercingétorix… who didn’t necessarily correspond to my idea of a typical Frenchman.

And Joan of Arc, too… who wasn’t exactly a typical Gallic female. (Many modern French women often find that English gentlemen can be charming.)

My legendary France might be thought of as starting with Denis Diderot [1713-1784], the brilliant instigator (with d'Alembert) of the Encyclopédie, which was intended to encompass all human knowledge of “sciences, arts and crafts”. To my modest mind, Diderot was one of the greatest intellects that the planet Earth has ever known.

His fabulous novel Jacques le Fataliste remains an astounding literary creation. Recommended to me enthusiastically long ago—for reasons that I was incapable of understanding at that time—by a lovely young student at the Sorbonne, Christine, who would become the mother of our children, this primordial work of Diderot happens to be my current bedside book.

Jumping shamelessly over countless scientists, philosophers and artists, I would next name Louis Pasteur [1822-1895] as a symbol of my legendary France.

He would be followed, soon after, by a woman who (like many famous French people) wasn’t even born in France: Marie Curie [1867-1934].

In the contemporary era, it’s not surprising that I’ve always been captivated by the spiritual presence of Charles de Gaulle [1890-1970]. Besides, his widespread arms inspired the gadget that enabled me to uncork countless bottles of wine throughout my early years in Paris.

Today, a trivial news item makes me think that all that gigantic intellectual heritage of France might be disappearing down the kitchen sink like dishwater. Let me explain.

Many of my Australian readers are familiar with the embarrassingly-stupid story of the railroad from Sydney to Melbourne, culminating in a notorious break-of-gauge singularity at Albury, on the frontier between the rival states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Insofar as the adjacent states failed to agree on a a standard common gauge, passengers have to descend from one train and get up into another. This innocent-looking country platform is in fact a monument to human stupidity, to the apparent impossibility of ever seeking agreement on simple issues.

For ages, I was convinced that nonsense of that deplorable kind could never occur in my hallowed France, where everything was conducted under the metrical auspices of René Descartes [1596-1650] for the mathematics and Napoléon Bonaparte [1769-1821] for the creation and enforcement of laws.

Well, my dear old France has just become involved in an astronomical fuckup. The dumb bastards in charge of French railways have recently ordered 50 million euros of rolling stock that’s slightly too wide for some 1300 stations! They simply forgot to take out a tape and get down on their hands and knees to measure the existing reality. So, more millions will have to be spent in shaving off the excess width of countless existing train platforms.

Once upon a time, this kind of error would have been unthinkable in France. Something has obviously changed... for the worse. Between now and the delivery of this rolling stock, certain human heads will surely roll. But this will not erase the nasty conclusion that my beloved ancient version of an eternal France—superbly philosophical and mathematical—would appear to be simply fucking off before our sad eyes.

Friday, June 14, 2013


The Airbus A350—in competition with the Boeing 787—took off from Toulouse Blagnac less than an hour ago on its maiden flight.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

French Rafale fighter plane

In my blog post of 1 March 2010 entitled Australia's choice of fighter planes [display], I suggested that, instead of waiting for the US Joint Strike Fighters ordered by former prime minister John Howard, the French Rafale would be an excellent choice.

Dassault Aviation has just announced its first foreign sales contract for this aircraft: 126 planes for India, an affair of some 12 billion dollars.

That kind of economic news is welcome in France at the present moment. One of the key arguments of the Socialist contender for the presidency, François Hollande, is that France needs to reassert rapidly and dynamically her high-tech industrial prowess on the international marketing scene.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Railway of shame

People in France have known for decades that the French national railway system—called the SNCF—was implicated explicitly in the ignominious transportation of Jews from France to the Nazi death camps in Poland.

Today, the president of the SNCF, Guillaume Pepy, admitted publicly that his corporation had been "a cog in the Nazi extermination machine". He was speaking from the old station of Bobigny, on the outskirts of Paris, from which some 25,000 individuals were freighted away to the camps.

The SNCF has decided to donate its Bobigny real estate, including the old building, to the local municipality, to be transformed into some kind of Shoah memorial.

The Bobigny station lies just two kilometers away from the notorious transit camp of Drancy, where inmates tried desperately to lead an everyday existence while awaiting their deportation to places named Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, etc.

At the same that we recall the shameful behavior of SNCF authorities who once condoned the evil exploitation of their railroad resources, we must not forget that countless SNCF technical employees played a vital role in the Résistance through their sabotage operations.

French media have drawn attention to what might be construed as an insidious purpose behind this sudden SNCF apology. The company is making bids for gigantic railroad contracts in California and Florida, and US Jewish lobbies have expressed their opposition to hiring a company with Jewish blood on its hands. The SNCF president tackled such criticism by stating that the decision to transform the Bobigny station into a memorial was "not dictated by circumstances", but by his "convictions". We'll see how people in the USA react to all this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's get aboard a dream

Click the image to access a video that presents a project for the construction of a luxury liner that would be named France.

The project is the brainchild of a young Parisian entrepreneur named Didier Spade, whose ancestors used to build luxurious furniture for great ocean liners such as the former France (now demolished). Click the photo to visit the website of Spade's Paris Yacht Marina.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Avant-garde French train technology

Just when the French acronym TGV [train à grande vitesse] has even found its way into English-language dictionaries [such as on my Macintosh] to designate French high-speed electric passenger trains, we'll be obliged soon to become familiar with a substitute: AGV [automotrice à grande vitesse]. I'm not sure how we should translate this expression. Maybe simply as high-speed train motor (a little awkward)... unless somebody attempts to introduce a neologism such as automotive, as a rail equivalent of automobile.

In the context of an AGV system, the power does not remain solely in the locomotive. Instead, it is distributed out to each carriage in the train. This means that the velocity of a train can be stabilized, no matter how long it is. And there are gains both in speed and in energy consumption. The Alstom manufacturer states that the new trains will be lighter than TGVs, through the use of new composite material.

Alstom has made it clear that it aims to export this revolutionary train. The Italian NTV operator has already ordered a batch of 25, and Argentina plans to use this train on its line between Buenos-Aires and Cordoba, for an investment of 1.5 billion dollars. The success of the TGV has been largely a matter of prestige. Unfortunately, as we all know, mere prestige won't buy shoes for the kids, or (as they say in French) put butter in your spinach. This time round, with the AGV, France would like to earn a lot of that old-fashioned stuff called money.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nuclear energy

In my recent article entitled Australia's submarines [display], I suggested that there is insufficient political consciousness and statesmanlike imagination in Australia to envisage a big project such as the construction of a fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines. In The Australian today, there are a few negative remarks on this question. For example, Opposition Senator Nick Minchin states: "Australia has no capability or expertise to build or maintain nuclear submarines and the Collins-class boats have proved that conventional submarines can do the job. Rather than have a distracting debate, Labor should just rule out the nuclear option now." Peter Briggs, president of the Submarine Institute of Australia, stated that the main problem is lack of knowledge: "I think they should rule out the nuclear option because frankly we do not have time for such a major debate if we are to deliver new submarines by 2025. Australia has no nuclear industry and no nuclear facilities at our universities, and so we don't have the personnel or the knowledge required."

I'm dismayed by this defeatist thinking, which reflects Australia's stubborn head-in-the-sand attitude towards nuclear energy. And, with Kevin Rudd now elected, it's almost certain that the nuclear-energy situation in Australia will be bleaker than ever.

Here in France, of course, nuclear energy has become an everyday affair. Technological progress and advanced expertise should normally decrease the risks of catastrophes, and relatively few people—apart from Greenpeace and a handful of environmental groups—would contend today that developments in this domain should be halted. On the contrary, the commune of Cadarache in the south of France (near Marseille) will soon be hosting a huge futuristic research program called ITER [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor] funded by the European Union, India, Japan, the People's Republic of China, Russia, South Korea and the USA.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Unwelcome guest... with money

"It's normal that the weak resort to terrorism." Apparently, that sentiment was expressed last Friday by Mouammar Kadhafi at a summit conference of African and European leaders in Lisbon. In the spirit of French law, these words might be construed as an apology for terrorism, and this would appear to be a crime in France. But we're on unstable ground. From a certain viewpoint, Kadhafi is merely describing a situation that exists in the real world, where the weak do in fact resort regularly to terrorism. And the French never forget that their heroic Résistance fighters, who didn't wear military uniforms, were in fact considered by Vichy and the Nazi occupant as terrorists.

Throughout the world, today is the 59th anniversary of the creation by the United Nations, in Paris, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many observers in France are disgusted to find Nicolas Sarkozy receiving Kadhafi as a guest at the Elysées Palace this evening. One of the most outspoken critics of this reception is Sarkozy's state secretary in charge of Human Rights, Rama Yade.

This exceptional 31-year-old lady, born in Senegal, accompanied Sarkozy to Libya when he went there on 25 July 2007 (without his wife) to thank Kadhafi for liberating the Bulgarian nurses. Full of smiles, she even shook hands with the Libyan dictator.

Consequently, many people are surprised, today, by the violence of her words concerning Kadhafi's visit to France. She stated publicly that the Libyan leader must "understand that our land is not a doormat on which a leader, terrorist or not, can wipe from his feet the blood of his deeds". She concluded her declaration by a dramatic metaphor: "France must not be the recipient of this kiss of death." Although Rama Yade is hardly an authentic representative of the downtrodden (her father, a professor of history, was the personal secretary of Léopold Sédar Senghor), her direct language is that of a youthful and intelligent France: the opposite of the so-called langue de bois (empty "woody" language) often employed by politicians.

Needless to say, the words of Rama Yade have made a huge impact in the media today. Countless individuals who don't necessarily admire Sarkozy's young lady from Senegal have voiced their disapproval of this state visit... whose obvious aim consists of signing French contracts (weapons, nuclear power, desalination equipment, etc) for some ten billion euros. Money like that goes to your head, and makes you forget—for a day or so—about human rights.

Monday, September 3, 2007

French energy

After months of discussions, a merger was announced this morning between two major French corporations in the energy domain: state-owned Gaz de France (the national utility handling natural gas) and part of the private group named Suez (processing of water and waste resources). The future conglomerate, to be called GDF-Suez, will be at least 35% state-owned. The final go-ahead for the proposed merger still has to be obtained from Suez shareholders, representatives of personnel and finally the European Commission. If all these authorizations are obtained, which appears likely, the merger will become a reality at some time in 2008. The new French giant will be the fourth-largest energy group in the world, following Gazprom (Russia), EDF (French electricity) and EON (Germany).