France to invest 15 billion Euro in its aeronautical industry

By Bjorn Fehrm

June 10, 2020, ©. Leeham News: France presented a 15 billion Euro support plan for the French aeronautical industry yesterday, to help the industry overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan has three focus areas:

  • safeguard the employment of the 300,000 employed in the French aero industry
  • transform the supplier network to a more robust structure
  • and perhaps most interesting, set the direction for the industries’ next aircraft projects

The French Finance Minister announces the plan. Source: France 24.

The support plan

The French Finance Minister, Bruno le Mair (pictured), started the presentation by emphasizing the importance of the French aeronautical industry (we present the speeches almost verbatim as it describes the route for the French industry and by it, Airbus for the next years):

“It’s the pride of the French nation and the outstanding example of our industrial success of the last 100 years. It’s the only national industry in the world that, besides the US, can develop and produce civil airliners, military fighters, and helicopters.

In civil airliners, it’s leading the world. We will not allow this crisis to change that by the Boeing’s of the US or COMAC’s of China. In fact, we will use the crisis to accelerate our advantage by being the first industry to develop the de-carbonized airliner.

The investments we present will be made over a long time to avoid the loss of employment and know-how. The crunch in orders and deliveries shall not destroy the unique competency it has taken decades to build.

We, therefore, roll out this plan with three focus areas:

Focus 1: Safeguard employment

The French aeronautical industry, with its supply chain, employs 300,000 people. Of these, 35,000 are highly qualified engineers. We will not let the pandemic waste this resource that has taken decades to build up. Without this plan, 100,000 of these jobs would be in peril.

Let’s be clear, there will be adjustments necessary, but these should be limited as far as possible.

The support will be through export guarantees of several billion euros:

  • We arranged for airline customers to have a moratorium on repayment of their export credits for new aircraft by a further 12 months. This represents a gain in Cash Flow for these airlines of 1.5 billion euros.
  • We propose to the European Commission that the OECD will accept a temporary easing of the repayment rules for new purchases of Airbus aircraft. The customers can wait up to 18 months to repay their export credits instead of the usual six months. This represents another two billion euros.

We will also invest in the military. We invest 832 million euros in pulling forward orders for several programs.

Focus 2: Transformation of SMEs

Our goal is to speed up the transformation of the industries’ Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that form the backbone of the supply chain. It hasn’t had the necessary changes and consolidations because of the constant augmentation in civil aircraft deliveries.

For improve this industry, we set up two funds:

  • A fund for financial investments of 1 billion euros and a fund for digitalization and automation of SMEs of 300 million euros. For the investment fund, the State will bring 200 million euros, the industry 200 million euros, the fund managers 100 million euros, and the finance industry the rest. This fund will strengthen the equity of weak companies and support the consolidation of the sector.
  • The second fund is a support fund that will be entirely financed by the State of up to 300 million euros over three years. It will invest in the digitalization, robotization, and diversification of the industry.

Focus 3: De-carbonisation

The goal is to accelerate the de-carbonization of the French aeronautical industry. We set a goal to achieve a carbon-neutral airliner by 2035 instead of 2050. This will be made possible by engines with a very high bypass ratio and the use of hydrogen.

France will, by it, be the country in which tomorrow’s de-carbonized civil aircraft are designed and produced.

To enable this, the Council for Research of Civil Aeronautics, CORAC, will get 1.5 billion euros to spend over three years. It supports development in France of fuel reduction technology, electrification systems, and tests with neutral carbon fuels like hydrogen.”

Details by the Transport Minister

The French Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne, followed up by detailing the de-carbonization plan. She emphasized the State’s investments shall be used to achieve a de-carbonized air transport industry, and France and Europe should lead this change:

“The immediate risk of the situation is a reduction in R&D, and thus redundancies among the 35,000 highly qualified engineers.

With Airbus representing 50% of the airliners flying today and SAFRAN supplying 65% of all single-aisle engines, we can lead the change to de-carbonized air transport for the world.

To achieve this, we will invest 1.5 billion euros during 2020, 2021, and 2022 in R&D through CORAC.

It supports the development of an ultra-clean replacement of the A320 series for the early 2030s, with a 30% reduction in fuel consumption and a change by 2035 to non-carbon-emitting hydrogen aircraft. For the latter, a demonstrator will be presented between 2026 and 2028.

The plan also includes a hybrid regional aircraft in this decade together with other clean vehicles like helicopters, drones, or general aviation aircraft.”

Finally, it was explained how the 3 billion euro loan and 4 billion loan guarantees to Air France fits in. The joint program of 7 billion euros presumes, for instance, that Air France does not compete with the high-speed trains in France for train trips taking under 2.5 hours.

Road ahead

We give the statements by the French Ministers almost verbatim as they say a lot about where Airbus and the French industry is going.

It will be hydrogen that replaces today’s fossil fuel and not batteries. The declarations are 100% in line with what I wrote about in the 20 part Corner series of “Why e in ePlane shall stand for environment”. The summary is found here.

28 Comments on “France to invest 15 billion Euro in its aeronautical industry

  1. “It will be hydrogen that replaces today’s fossil fuel and not batteries. The declarations are 100% in line with what I wrote about in the 20 part Corner series of “Why e in ePlane shall stand for environment”.”

    Good to see somebody either read your series or they arrived at the same conclusions, or a combination of both 🙂

    • France likes nuclear power and they can produce LH2 at added facilities to those plants and keep them running at full throttle so besides reading Leeham their long time investments in nuclear and aircrafts point to this solution. Germany/Spain might use wind power to produce LH2 at sites were the grid cannot swallow all the power produced and producing H2 is one way to keep the mills running at full power, especially Germany with Siemens, Enercon and similar large windmill manufacturers. Both large EU gas manufacturers Air Liquid and Linde gas would be boosted by this focus on H2. The UK is also heavily into wind but with German/Danish/US suppliers.

  2. I have to laugh that so much money is to be poured into something that net would just dramatically increase costs to travel. We are not out of oil and nothing France spends on hydrogen powered aerospace will make China/India decrease carbon footprints, nor is there frankly a real need to do so.

    But whatever, it’s their citizen’s tax dollars, they can spend it as they wish certainly.

    • I for one hope that you do not have a position of power. There is a tremendous need for decarbonization, which has also been recognized by China and India. It’s rather unfortunate that the one country that has the most influence on this planet is wavering and that some of its citizens find global warming a matter of ‘belief’. Have a nice day.

      • Bob:

        We should be clear that its one individual that is “wavering”

        Most of of us want some balance of reality.

        Unfortunately the alternative facts also is used as a red haring.

        One reality is no matter how much the coal is poured on, the power companies are abandoning it in the US.

        Interestingly enough Japan is looking at coal to solve its post nuclear power issue (that is truly insane but……)

        China and India paying lips service to recognize it vs actually doing something about is??????

  3. Dassault aviation CEO confirme today at BFM business radio Dassault design office works on an a business aircraft with an hydrogen hybrid back up with Airbus. ( pure electrical auxilliary power without engine bleed supply maybe) . Looks good perspective i.a.w with your excellent Corner series. I hope Airbus D.O works on an “equivalent” solution for an hybrid ATR42.

  4. Surely that cuts right across all the WTO rules and just invites a US legal action and response to protect Boeing? Seems pretty unlikely that it can be framed so that none of the money is seen as a subsidy to Airbus.

    • Trump promised to spend Trillions for a restart.
      Where do you think that will be sunk?
      Free beanies for all?

      • Boeing has forgone the federal funding in favor of private financing, at least for now. I suspect part of the reason for that was the desire to not be assessed countermeasures by the WTO.

        At the end of May, the US formally informed the WTO that it had complied fully with all recommendations of the WTO to end subsidies to Boeing. So now we’ll have to see how the WTO rules.

        The WTO may not regard funding resulting from the COVID crisis as being a subsidy. It would have to be shown that it gave an unfair advantage.

  5. An unstated objective is probably also to bypass GE in the CFM agreement. A turbine engine burning hydrogen isn’t fundmentally different to a turbine engine burning avgas. Unless the GE/Safran agreement covers such a variant, Safran is free to make hydrogen-burning turbine engines outside the agreement and supply them to Airbus without involving GE (and also cutting R-R and P&W out to create an all-French solution)

  6. Good to see investment, especially that directed at environmentally transformative. But, although strongly indicative, I don’t see that it is reasonable to go directly to claim that it describes the route for Airbus, even if the investment isn’t challenged by eg Boeing. After all, the pertinent German Länder (together as GZBV) have an almost identical, aprox 11%, stake in Airbus as the French government does, and the Spanish government also has 4%. They will surely have some say in policy, what investments are made and in any shift in balance of power that the French government may be attempting. Let’s not forget that the French government has prior in requiring/expecting leadership.

    As for Le Mair’s claim that “It’s the only national industry in the world that, besides the US, can develop and produce civil airliners, military fighters, and helicopters”, pull the other one. That’s a speech targeted at domestic audiences.

    • Yes. Airbus doesnt even have a majority stake in the military jets- they have the former German and Spanish shares, but dont include UK and Italy.
      France has never been part of both the JV that produced the Tornado or Typhoon. Im sure however that its their long term aim is to have French leadership through Dassault and using ‘french’ engines.

  7. Disagree. Up to now France was the only european country able to design ans build a military aicraft including engine and systems ( Rafale) . Sweden uses US engine on their excellent Gripen. French government gave up such capabilty two years ago with the SCAF european program ( with Germany and Spain) . Dassault and Airbus are now working together. May be US does not like such initiative…. Trump unilateral policy with european allies ( and friends for ever) might be an explanation about such change.

    • That is incorrect. If you want to discount Russia as a European nation, although Sweden lacks the engine capability the UK doesn’t. Look at the Eurofighter Typhoon. The reason it was multinational wasn’t through needing partners for technology, it was through needing partners for money. The engine used is a workshare development of a Rolls Royce engine, the original radar is a workshare version of a sovereign UK developed radar, the airframe etc somewhat of a workshare development of EAP.

      As for SCAF, the French again did what they always do in requiring leadership of what they really want. So, the NGF component (the manned fighter) has Dassault as prime contractor, Airbus only as main partner. They also held out for a long time trying to make the engine a majority Snecma project before having to agree to a 50/50 with MTU. But, I guess they have lived with a Snecma 50/50 venture (CFM) for many years already and so could cope with it.

      Of course Germany had to get quid pro quo, so it (Airbus) got lead on the unmanned “remote carrier”, with Airbus as prime, while Airbus also leads on the cloud, with Thales as prime. My gut feeling is that, if SCAF/FCAS reaches service as currently constituted, France will retain a majority position / leadership on the manned element and perhaps find, that, oh, look, this other UAS we’ve been tinkering with and/or this other cloud we’ve been developing for something else works better with our needs so we’ll go with them instead.

      Hats off to successive French governments, they’ve been very successful and consistent at maximising the investment of other countries while always getting themselves top dog position.

      • Agree with you about the british global capability to design and product a fighter. AT all events, UK did not use such capacity during the last 40 years.
        My point is that France give up such capabilty with SCAF/ NGF in a well balanced agreement with two others european countries. Dassault leadership on NGF has been given because Dassault expertise and Germany get leadership on a german/ french battle tank because their own expertise. European community ( EC) will succeed such way or will collapse. Will see !!

        • I will give it to the French as the best at PR.

          Actually effective implementation is Germany and the UK.

          I hate to think what a full on Rafael cost is.

          We can compare a C-17 to an A-400, both at 200 million with one hugely more capable than the other.

  8. It is always a bit of a background battle between the French and Germans. Usually the french strike first putting plans & a lot of money on the table.

    Accompanied with ambitious plans for Europe, always based in France. Making sure they don’t inform anyone beforehand.

    The Germans are even more European minded, but avoid putting themselves at the throne. Usually more soft policy, aligning with others creating majorities.

    Interestingly the french deeply believe you can’t let long term sustainibility up to the free market / industry. Paris concluded oil will go & coal is dirty 50 years ago & changed course. This is how they produce electricity now.

    They just do it. A bit like the Chinese.

    • Agreed about the French going first. Again, the leadership aspect. There is an ongoing desire to be the ones setting the standards, the visions, moulding the world. Whether it was the unsuccessful bid to have the prime meridian or the successful drive to set the global units of measurement, or to hold the global arbiters in as many sports as possible (football, motorpsort, cycling, gymnastics etc.), or to design the EU and be its dominant language (which was the case of the EEC/EC/EU until the 1990s. They fought back against the influx of UK citizens that threatened to undermine French power by getting the EU to require intake be fluent in 2 languages, which ruled out large numbers of notoriously foreign language illiterate UK wannabes). They have been consitently good at it.

      I recall an essay (and so just 1 opinion without references) about the differering outlook of various European nations and the thing that stood out to me was a claimed French (maybe just ENA) assertion that everyone in the world has 2 nationalities, the country of their birth and French. So very different from their 2 European competitors, the UK and Germany.

      But I don’t see Germany as more European or seeking majority. They understand that being paymaster is the real power and since Germany has always been mercantile (successfully so) & industrially driven, and following WW2 it could hardly seek an assertive political role, it doubled down on money. The German gvernmental approach to eg Tornado and Typhoon was to gain workshare by agreeing to buy a given, large, number of aircraft in order to reach parity with the UK, but never to follow through. That said, they did still get name above the door by gaining the head offices of the organisations and then later on they used behind the scenes tactics to wrest more control. Linked apparently with the Airbus bribery issues of recent years.

      As far as I’m aware, laissez faire capitalism in major European countries really only lasted in the UK beyond the 19th century. Both France and Germany became more interventionist. I don’t know whether this is correct but my thinking for years about France is that this ties up with their central, codified way of life (as in Civil Law) vs the relatively decentral, interpretive way of life (as in Common Law) of the UK (and USA, Commonwealth). Again, likely sustained by the position of ENA.

      I think the French move to nuclear was about national survival, not the environment. Their coal mines were left in a bad state by Germany in the 40s and they were dependent on imports for oil and so struggled with eg Suez and Algeria. Bad experiences they learned from. Concurrently they had felt the need to develop nuclear skills in order to have the bomb themselves and remain a significant power in these terms. So come the 60s the only choice for them that they could control and guarantee was to go nuclear.

      Like China, and Germany, and the USA, they benefit economically from a population that supports national endeavours.

      • There’s a famous comment from Henry Kissinger asking “If I want to speak to Europe, who do I ring”. French policy since the 1960’s has been to try to make the answer “The President of France”.

      • I do not think that like China and USA Germany benefits economically from a population that supports national endeavours. They are way to democratic for that.

        Every major program that has risk is protested by changing oppositions and protests have a lot of power by law. Not as centralized/ overruling as France, USA or China.

        For the last 5 years Merkel was the undisputed Queen of Europe. Experience, she speaks English & Russian (she was the Puttin Whisperer), German economic power, friendships with Benelux/Nordic leaders and she showed leadership (Wir schaffen das).

        Her leaving probably creates a bit of a vacuum & guess who is planning to jump in zèrre..

  9. Bruno LE MAIRE is not the best of french politicians.
    incredibly ambitious but that is not enough!
    Hydrogen is very fashionable right now, so he jumps into the Hydrogen band wagon.
    Nobody told him that electrolysis , however simple it looks on paper ,just does not work $wise
    it has Always been a lot cheaper to produce H² from Hydrocarbons, than from excess electricity from Wind mills, solar panels or nuclear stations.
    even if you totally discount the price of power.
    everybody has been speaking about it for ages, but nobody is doing it on a large scale..anywhere in the world!
    there must be a reason!
    “green H” is just a dream, at the top of what Bjorn called “inflated expectations”
    Just for Bjorn, storing safely tons of H² under 700bars in a plane at an affordable cost is probably a serious issue.
    Not to mention filling safely H² from airport installations! A truck filled with 700 bars H² would be a very nice target for a simple bazooka…

    • Well written other than the Bazooka (that is so WWII) .

      Now its RPG!

      That said the technical aspects of pressure and a pressure vessel are the issue. We ship natural gas around the world under pressure all the time.

      Have to look at carbon to Hydrogen, does that not remove the issue of CO?

      Last I saw in cars it was like batteries. Limited range.

      • LNG can be stored indefinitely at atmospheric pressure with sufficient insulation and a small evaporative recovery plant. I consulted on the design of very large above-ground LNG storage tanks with my advisor in grad school.

        Liquid hydrogen is another beast entirely, it needs a minimum of 10 atmospheres for storage, much better insulation, and a much larger evaporation recovery plant.

        Management of evaporation is more difficult due to broader explosive limits, and requires more sensors and safeguards. We used it extensively in thruster research. It can be done but it’s much more expensive.

        Use of hydrogen in aviation, at least over long distances, returns to the notion of flying fuel tanks with payload attached. It’s probably technically feasible but one wonders again (as per Bjorn’s series) whether it’s a good use of resources, when it could be used much more effectively in other applications.

        So one wonders if this is not similar to the pursuit of electric long-range aviation, in that it doesn’t have a high probability of success, at least with current technology. In some sense the limits are even more fixed than with batteries, since they are physical properties, unless a carrier can be found that solves the volume and storage problems.

        • “Use of hydrogen in aviation, at least over long distances, returns to the notion of flying fuel tanks with payload attached.”

          No change from today. A 77W essentially is a flying fuel tank with some afterthought on accommodating payload.
          ( view: fuel storage vs payload capability. 🙂

          • With hydrogen, not so much by weight as by volume. Volume of fuel would greatly exceed volume of payload. Imagine the size of a 77W running on hydrogen.

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