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​French Military Engineering

The French Military Engineering consist of three components, with an overall strength of aproximately 28 000 personnel including the Engineer school, mainly belonging to the Army.

Within the Security component, the 8700 Paris Fire Brigade sappers is the largest fire brigade in Europe and is in charge of risks prevention, rescue and assitance to the population in Paris and its surroundings. The three civil protection units, strong of of 1400 personnel with a large scope of skills, provides medical support, conduct rescue and disaster relief operations, forests firefighting as well as CBRN decontamination. Those training and intervention units are located in Nogent le Rotrou (RIISC 1), Brignolles (RIISC 7) and Corte, in Corsica (UIISC5). In addition, 200 firemen are assigned to specific facilities and training areas all over the territory.

The infrastructure component (Defence Infrastrucure Service) was reorganised in 2005 and is now under the general administration secretary subordination with Air and Maritime components. The direction is located in Versailles, near Paris. Seven Infratructure institutions are supported by 54 units dispatched on the whole French territory. Eight additional directions are in charge of overseas territories and its mission is to provide technical expertise for the infrastructure, on the national territory for armed forces permanent infrastructure as well as in the theatres where forces are deployed for enduring missions, for a global strength of 8200 personnel. The Infrastructure Military Engineers participate to the construction, the maintenance, the hand over / take over of infrastructure and to the support of the deployement and the redeployment of forces.

The combat component is mainly composed of combat engineer regiments with 8000 personnel, able to perform a large spectrum of missions through combat engineering capabilities like  support to mobility (i.e route clearance, military search, breaching, bridging), participation to counter-mobility including mining, contribution to force protection and support to deployment in secure and unsecure environement (production of water and electrical power, horizontal and vertical infrastructure construction and hardening).

This conponent is  currently being reorganised to adapt its capabilities and units to the Army new structure.The challenge is to preserve enduring capabilities and skills while keeping providing the necessary support both to the division and brigade level. To this end, the combat componant will consist in 2017 of eight Engineer Regiments (see info box) ; two regiments at division level with specialised companies dedicated to deployment support and six at brigade level, with 2 specialized companies for support to mobility.

Apart from this structure, the 25th  Air Force Engineer Regiment is located in Istres with the combat support company and one operational company. Two other companies are colocated with Air Bases, in Avord and Mont-de-Marsan. Those engineers have special equipment and skills regarding airfield damage repair operations. The dedicated manpower is 1200 Air Force Engineers, including Air Force Operations Command.

Engineer equipment plan is to replace several major assets. Among them the personnel carrier, the combat enginneer tractor. Area acces control, safety and protection equipment is also part of the capabilities being developped. Bridging capabilities were recently reinforced with new performing equipment, like the SPRAT (heavy wheeled portable bridge elements).More info on equipment is available on the Army web page: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/terre/equipements/genie

The french Engineer School is located in Angers and is

the main training centre for engineers in combat and technical skills. Its mission is to train junior officers and noncommissioned officers for their future assigment in engineer units. Those enginneers are regularly coming back to the "Mother House" to train for additional skills, to update their knowledge and to obtain the different degrees in accordance with their speciality all along their carreer. In addition to the crossing site of the school, two training areas in the vicinity of Angers are used to train the sappers.

The school also conduct doctinal studies for employment and equipment, to prepare the future and to exploit the lessons learned.

The Brigadier General commanding the School is also the Joint Chief Engineer. Therefore he has authority on each component engineers, acting also at interministerial level (i.e. Security component) and international level (NATO, EU).

An extraordinary legacy and centuries old traditions render a strong cohesion to the French sappers, which allow them to face the current and future challenges to support combat operations, protect the population, provide infrastructure, everywhere at any time.  

The motto the French sappers use for decades is more than ever reflecting their large skills frame , their adaptability and their combativeness: "parfois détruire, souvent contruire, toujours servir" (Sometimes destroy, often build, always serve.)