1. Trident missile.
  2. M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
  3. AgustaWestland Apache
  4. Boeing E-3 Sentry.
  5. Raytheon Sentinel

some other examples

In contrast, France isn't nearly as reliant on USA. Why did UK prefer to become so reliant on US-made equipment? Were there historical diplomatic or political forces at work?

  • Your Question presupposes as fact something that you should first determine, by analyzing the weapons procurement of France's military. Even if it turns out that France does not purchase major weapons systems from the U.S., given today's global economy some degree of sourcing (parts or know-how) from the U.S. is almost inevitable. May 30 '13 at 19:22
  • 6
    I count 68 types on your "laundry list", excluding the various historical flights. Only 15 of those are marked as of US origin in whole or part, which is a long way short of "most". Browsing the list of modern British Army equipment - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_equipment_of_the_British_Army - also reveals a wide range of sources; some home-grown, some American, and many others. May 30 '13 at 20:51
  • I'm willing to accept the premise as given, based on the diplomatic history of the countries going as far back as deGaulle. I have re-worded the question to solicit answers about this diplomatic history, which the current answers already address.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 2 '13 at 14:11
  • Just a note, USMC uses British VOTL, probably most known in popular culture -- Harriers.
    – Voitcus
    Jun 25 '13 at 19:42
  • Another note: UK developed Chobham Armour is definitely used by the US on the Abrams and a derived version is used on the V22 Osprey (and was used around the Pilot on a version of the Huey). It's likely that the Leclerc and Leopard 2 also use a development of Chobham (although, this is unconfirmed - understandably)
    – Kobunite
    Jun 26 '13 at 8:27

From my French point of view, I would like to add a few things to Mark's post.

First, the UK and France were rival countries for a long time (the UK is often referred in French as our “greatest enemy”).

After the WW2, the moral impact of the war made those countries to choose ways to protect themselves from another war. However, their responses were quite different.

  • The UK chose to pair up with the real winner of the WW2, the USA. There are great ties between these countries (one of them being language) and from that time, the UK and the US have very similar exterior policies (the UK followed the US into the 2nd war in Iraq and France did not) and they seem to form partnership (see the relations between Thatcher and Reagan).
  • France thought the priority was reconstruction and security for the people. Thanks to the Marshall Plan's money, European countries were able to rebuild themselves and were pushed (by the US) to team up (though the US did not anticipate that the alliances between the European countries were to become a big union which is now an economical competitor). Therefore, the two nations (France and West Germany) which were the most chocked by the war began to maintain a relationship with the idea that a strong relationship will prevent them from attacking each other forever.

Their paths were then very divergent. The UK was (and is still) perceived as being both in and out of the European Union at the same time and from the very beginning of this union. For instance, the UK tried to create its own union to compete with the EEC (the organization which preceded the EU), the EFTA (note that the UK is ironically no longer part of this association).

When De Gaulle was president he fought till his death against the UK entering the EEC because he thought the US' influence on them would be damaging for the union and the future showed that he was quite right, the UK often views the EU as an economic union instead of an organization of countries seeking to make their voice count. This lead to some hard times between France and the UK, e.g. the well-known quotation from J. Chirac (at that time France's PM) about M. Thatcher: “What does that housewife want more? My balls on a tray?” (original: “Mais qu'est-ce qu'elle me veut de plus cette ménagère ? Mes couilles sur un plateau ?”). Thatcher had a very harsh policy towards the EU, she notably said “I want my money back”, and this sentence can explain a lot about the UK's vision of the EU.

Now, that said, to get back into the topic, France built itself inside of Europe and towards the goal of avoiding another European war at any cost. France, mostly because of De Gaulle's complex relationships with the US (Roosevelt did not trust him (fr) during the WW2 and the AMGOT did not ease their relations) did not trust the US in any domain.

De Gaulle made some decisions about NATO (because he thought that this organization aimed more at protecting the US than at protecting all the other countries inside of it) that pushed all foreign military forces to leave France's territory. Like Mark wrote, the UK and France were both inside of NATO during the Cold War but France was far from playing with only one side.

So, France built big companies (Thales, EADS) to create weapons by itself (and France is one of the biggest weapons exporter) and with the help of other countries of the European Union (Airbus and Eurocopter come from those partnerships) in order to keep its independence (and avoid some problems which could come from buying weapons from a foreign country, like espionage).

On the other hand, the UK maintain a relationship of trust with the US (Special Relationship) and rely on this country for their weapons. From the Cold War, France and the UK learned that they were not the World's ruling countries anymore (the Suez Crisis is a good example of this, as the US pushed the UK and France to give up on their ambitions). USSR and the US became what we call in French “les gendarmes du Monde” (the policemen of the World). Suez Crisis had a great impact, the UK decided to follow the rules imposed by the US most of the time when France chose to distance itself from the US and NATO.

To sum all this up:

  • The UK knows that their power is not the one they had before the WW2 and chose to team up with the US in what is now known as the “Special Relationship”.
  • Given US' dominance over the world and its policy, France chose to distance itself from the US and to rely on itself and on peers like the countries in the European Union (which, for some of them, may have the same state of mind) for its protection.

Disclaimer: I tried to remain objective, I know that both the UK (WW1 & WW2, acquiring the A-bomb…) and the US (WW1 & WW2, the Marshall Plan…) helped France and the French people a lot, but this answer has to be put in the right context and some political decisions were made out of mistrust.

NB: Sorry for this long post which can be quite French-centered and contain mistakes.

  • Fantastic answer - for me it would be marginally better if you mentioned British armaments companies, such as BAE as a balance to Thales, EADS. Also, it might be worth mentioning all those times the British, French and Germans teamed to gether (or tried too) such as with the Horizon CNGF and NFR90 and Eurofighter programmes. Still Fantastic answer @Asche.
    – Kobunite
    Jun 26 '13 at 8:31
  • 1
    Just a side note, UK was always main opponent of USA too before WW1. This was the only country USA feared of (Monroe's doctrine was not used against British possessions in America, like Canada, Honduras, Barbados, Guyana etc), and this is still the only country to capture and burn Washington. But of course, this was long time before ww2. Thanks for your great answer!
    – Voitcus
    Jun 26 '13 at 9:42
  • 1
    @Voitcus That was long before WWI, though. The war that you refer to happened only about 35 years after the U.S. had been an independent country. The U.S. and U.K. had been friendly long before WWI. In fact, they resumed friendly trade immediately after the end of the war in 1814, nearly a century before WWI.
    – reirab
    Jan 14 '15 at 16:13
  • There are also differences in economic philosophy between the two countries, particularly regarding the state ownership of companies and the extent to which privatised companies are open to foreign capital/takeover.
    – James
    Sep 9 '15 at 13:42
  • 2
    In this tirade of Francophilia the most interesting point of all is your contention that the UK decided to team up with the real winner of WW2 - the USA (presumably out of self-interest). Perhaps you need reminding that Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, did their best to support France, whilst the USA was still thinking about what to do, until forced into matters by Japan in December 1941.
    – WS2
    Mar 11 '16 at 11:35

You might want to reivew the history of the NATO alliance, Charles De Gaulle, and the special relationship.

In particular

Immensely patriotic, de Gaulle and his supporters held the view, known as Gaullism, that France should continue to see itself as a major power and should not rely on other countries, such as the United States, for its national security and prosperity.

France made a strategic decision that it would be self-reliant.

Update in response OP's request for clarification on why the British didn't think about self-reliance.

The British did consider self reliance. Ultimately you can do more with the resources of two countries than you can with the resources of one. Furthermore UK policy was set in the context of a conflict between the NATO alliance (where the UK was a major player) against the Warsaw Pact alliance.

Finally, a review of history would indicate that alliance and cooperation have figured promiently in UK (and commonwealth) foreign policy. Alliance is a successful strategy for the UK.

  • OK. That is good. But why didn't British think about their self-reliance?
    – user806
    Jun 1 '13 at 5:47
  • The French have a lot of international cooperation as well, they just tend to be the major party in those ventures, thus seen as the creator, where the British often are a minor partner and thus not recognised as the creator except by those in the know.
    – jwenting
    Jun 4 '13 at 5:53
  • Britain was also the recipient of 10 times the amount of Lend-Lease aid than France. These debts would undoubtedly played a part in negotiations regarding defence policies.
    – James
    Sep 9 '15 at 13:49
  • Britain tends to see itself as part of an English-speaking diaspora. From the loss of Calais in 1558, Britain has had a tendency to look to the sea rather than to the land mass of Europe. And her principal military arm has always been naval. Britain has never fought a land-war in Europe without allies. Divisions in British society over the EU question illustrate how segments of the population lean to the English-speaking diaspora and away from Europe. Moreover it was Cambridge scientists and their input into the Manhattan project that played a big part in getting nuclear age moving.
    – WS2
    Feb 6 '16 at 1:01
  • 1
    Britain did a bit more than think about self reliance. For example, it developed its own orbital (satellite and launcher) capability, then abandoned it. See also EE Lightning, TSR/2 etc. Aug 6 '21 at 15:50

France has a lot of major (part) foreign weapons systems. It too operates E-3s, and prior to that E-2s for example.
And many of the British systems are historically part British, developed either as joint ventures with other countries, produced under license in the US, or substitution British systems for part of the equipment in a system (the RAF's F-4 Phantoms for example employed British built engines and weapons systems, the Trident missiles employ British warheads and guidance systems, the Apaches employ part British systems and are UK built under license, etc. etc.). This is not dissimilar to many French systems which are often built together with Germany, Spain, and/or Italy.

  • This Wiki article on BAe Systems the UK's largest and the world's second-largest defence contractor will provide some idea of the integrated relationship of US and Uk defence supplies.
    – WS2
    Feb 8 '16 at 22:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy