Optimize the French army for ww2

Similar to the current threads ongoing. Starting time is year of 1925, so there is a lot of time to improve what needs improvement - doctrine, tactics, hardware, training emphasis points.

Land-army specific thread.

To start the ball rolling - greater emphasis on air defence artillery, from 20mm upwards. The 13.2mm HMG will not cut it (unless for self-defece of the AFVs). Low end might be covered by 20mm or sorts (Oerlikon, Solothurn by early 1930s), while 37-40mm bracket can be covered by either Bofors (best option) or by outgrowth of the French 37mm that is an actually automatic gun. Adopt both towed and SP versions.
 
Apart from the command and control problems (which I'll pass on for now,) a big part of the problem was that decent equipment existed (25 and 47mm AT gun, 47mm tank gun, Somua S35 and S40) but wasn't available in sufficient quantity in May 1940. The political considerations could ptobably occupy a whole thread, but I'll keep off those.

For the light AA, the simple option would be to bring the 25mm production forward, as the real problem was shortage of weapons rather than how good the 25mm was. That should reduce the amount of stuka-induced panic.
For the 37mm class, almost anything would be an improvement over OTL - even a maxim style pompom would have better rate of fire. The logical solution would be for Schneider to actually build a gun that worked - I don't know what the barriers were, but everyone else managed. Another option is to develop a 47mm gun. It probably will fire too slowly to be really useful, but nothing flying in 1940 would survive a direct hit.
For both light and medium sizes, 'not a great gun' is still much better than no gun at all.

That's enough brain power for now.
 
AFVs/SP arty:
- introduce the proper 'tractor' - Lorraine 37 fits the bill - earlier instead of the Renault UE; have it outfitted with goodies like 75mm cannon (both fro direct and indirect fire), or some good AA gun, or a 120mm mortar
- a truck- or half-track mounted 105mm could have come in handy, sorta 'primitive Ceasar'
- tank needs at least a 2-men turret
- tank needs a good, reliable radio
- start thinking about the 47mm cannon for AFVs much earlier; even the ww1 leftover 47mm Hotchkiss will be already doing the number on the German tanks, especially if a better and a bit hotter ammo is available
- a small carrier, with rubber tracks for less noise to carry people, lighter mortars, 47mm ATGs, to tow trailers, or even the pintle-mounted 20mm AA gun
- don't go dirt cheap with tanks, make the 15 ton tanks standard issue by early 1930s, and 20 tons by second half of 1930s; have the open-topped AFVs cater for lower weight classes
 
Radios, lots & lots of radios!
Not just for tanks but also for communication between forward battalions & supporting artillery but more importantly for between army HQs (with appropriate encryption).

If French units could just communicate in a timely manner then a lot of their problems could have been overcome.
 
1925 is early enough that we get to decide if we want to build the Maginot line and we could potentially shift the timing of the construction.

Will need to think on this.

Doctrine will have a bigger influence than actual optimisation.
 
Cheesy option would be to ensure enough funding to afford a limited mobilization in case Germany ever tries to remilitarise Rhineland.
But barring that:
1. More open-ended rehearsal exercises without scripted ending.
2. Keep the mechanised experimental units funded, even if the numbers of wartime army have to be cut a bit.
3. A lot of existing equipment can be effectively modernised. Take a look what the US Ordnance Department has just done to their 75mm Field Gun M1897 with the new M2 carriage. Follow suit. Develop an AT round for this gun, and use the surplus barrels from WW1 to create enough AT for every infantry division.
4. Make sure that the French infantry company has equivalent firepower compared to a German one. Skip light mortars, use more medium mortars and keep studying the possibility to develop a heavier 120mm mortar. If this proves viable, make sure they are available in large numbers.
5. Standardise the infantry rifle, and make sure it can fire AT rifle grenades. Make sure that every squad has at least a few.
6. Focus on camouflage and dispersion, keep air force presence a key part of exercises. Do your best to make sure that the Air Force understands that close air support and interdiction are the main future missions of the French army, and that close collaboration with the Army is a must.
7. Take the best light AA the French navy uses, and make sure its available in necessary numbers for active and reserve divisions.
8. Even if radios are untrustworthy, keep on improving them and train with them.
9. Bribe, threaten, cajole and coerce the Belgians to maintain their defensive alliance with France active, and plan and train together in peacetime.
 
I see the consensus is to improve the poor systemic communications of the French army. Would not be also prudent to have a good working relationship with the French Air force ?
 
Retire every officer over 55 and leave them retired when war comes.
Train, train and if in doubt train again.
Keep National Service at 2 years and establish a large cadre of long service professionals to provide solid core for the reservists.
Radios, trucks and a modern rifle.
 
Good calls on making the 75mm more modern. A split carriage will also allow for greater elevation = greater range. (yes, a men in the frontline with binoculars and radio is a must)
Infantry weapons - modify the RSC 1918 to fire the 7.5mm. A 15 rd detachable magazine would've been nifty there. The 8mm Ribeyrolles is a very useful intermediate cartridge, beat the Americans (wrt. the M1 Carbine) or even the Germans (wrt. StG-44) to the punch. Copy and improve the MP-18, there is really no need to undercut the armed forces with the 7.65mm Longue.
A belt-fed 7.5mm MG would've been nice to have.
 
France's problem isn't the military, its the political in-fighting and mistrust. You can have the best army in the world but if morale is in the toilet, no one trusts each other and you have a fifth column who sides with the invader, it doesn't matter. More tanks aren't going to solve the issue.
 

Driftless

Donor
AFVs/SP arty:
(snip)
- a truck- or half-track mounted 105mm could have come in handy, sorta 'primitive Ceasar'
(snip)
The French were pioneers in the half-track field, though many were light weight rigs. Create a somewhat larger model that can serve as both a prime mover and a solid base for an on-board gun.

Similarly, the Laffly W15s were a versatile 6x6. Make and deploy more of them, including the 4.7 cm portee model. They weren't going to be competing at Le Mans, but their comparative mobility could have been even more useful than OTL
 

Driftless

Donor
Off on a tangent, but make Gen Gamelin the Governor General (or it's equivalent) of Indochina in 1938. He would have his hands full with that assignment
 
Cheesy option would be to ensure enough funding to afford a limited mobilization in case Germany ever tries to remilitarise Rhineland.
But barring that:
1. More open-ended rehearsal exercises without scripted ending.
2. Keep the mechanised experimental units funded, even if the numbers of wartime army have to be cut a bit.
3. A lot of existing equipment can be effectively modernised. Take a look what the US Ordnance Department has just done to their 75mm Field Gun M1897 with the new M2 carriage. Follow suit. Develop an AT round for this gun, and use the surplus barrels from WW1 to create enough AT for every infantry division.
4. Make sure that the French infantry company has equivalent firepower compared to a German one. Skip light mortars, use more medium mortars and keep studying the possibility to develop a heavier 120mm mortar. If this proves viable, make sure they are available in large numbers.
5. Standardise the infantry rifle, and make sure it can fire AT rifle grenades. Make sure that every squad has at least a few.
6. Focus on camouflage and dispersion, keep air force presence a key part of exercises. Do your best to make sure that the Air Force understands that close air support and interdiction are the main future missions of the French army, and that close collaboration with the Army is a must.
7. Take the best light AA the French navy uses, and make sure its available in necessary numbers for active and reserve divisions.
8. Even if radios are untrustworthy, keep on improving them and train with them.
9. Bribe, threaten, cajole and coerce the Belgians to maintain their defensive alliance with France active, and plan and train together in peacetime.
A few comments
2) The DLMs were in service in 1940 and were good. They just needed a few more.
3) the 75 was used as an AT gun, but (as with 25 pounder) using it as an AT gun deprives the army of one of the best field guns around. Far better to have a decent issue of 25mm (very easy to conceal and effective against all 1940s tanks, trucks, half tracks) and get the 47mm into service in sufficient numbers to pick off tanks at long range (the portee version doing shoot and scoot would be good).
4) Brandt mortars were among the best in the world. They needed more, although the VB grenade launchers were not a bad stand in. I don't think anyone was thinking about 120mm mortars other than for smoke before the 40s. 75 or 80mm mortars would probably look like a nice to have to an army equipped with the best 75mm field gun.
5) The VB launcher was as good or better than anyone elses and had been in use since WW1. HEAT grenades were being developed (Brandt again) but needed to be available a year or so earlier. But then infantry AT weapons are really a last resort, and more 25mm guns would have been as useful or better.
7) that was the 25mm. Good enough, but not available in the numbers needed. And no medium 37 to 40mm) was available.

1, 6, 8 and 9 - I strongly agree. However, 9 is outside the direct control of the French, while the others could potentially have been changed by the French themselves.

Edit. The comment on the 25mm AT should have been 'effective against all axis tanks'. I doubt it would have bothered a matilda, char b and possibly not a Somua unless very close.
 
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Radios, lots & lots of radios!
Not just for tanks but also for communication between forward battalions & supporting artillery but more importantly for between army HQs (with appropriate encryption).

If French units could just communicate in a timely manner then a lot of their problems could have been overcome.
This.
Also, form a strong armoured reserve corps, and hold it in reserve.
 
France's problem isn't the military, its the political in-fighting and mistrust. You can have the best army in the world but if morale is in the toilet, no one trusts each other and you have a fifth column who sides with the invader, it doesn't matter. More tanks aren't going to solve the issue.























































I agree with you, but would extend it. The politicians viewed the production of military equipment as a jobs program instead of an arms program. For example, planes were never built on an assembly line. This would be too efficient and workers would lose their jobs and labor unions would lose pow

























































I
 
IMO the best would be a 200k fully professional and mobile standing army, to give Germany a bloody nose as soon as it's starting making trouble.
 
France's problem isn't the military, its the political in-fighting and mistrust. You can have the best army in the world but if morale is in the toilet, no one trusts each other and you have a fifth column who sides with the invader, it doesn't matter.
It definitly IS.
but make Gen Gamelin
The problem is Gamlin was the senior general that the government trusted, looking with hindsight at the behaviour of Weygand & Pétain etc in FoF I dont think I can really dispute the lack of trust as unreasonable? The issue is they needed to clear out and go down a generation the generals they dont trust not to obey the democratic government orders, not simply side line them and keep Gamlin over them.

The issue is that the forced retirement of generals even if needed might lead to a massive crisis, hopefully not to a coup d'état or civil war levels, so was put off in the hopes that they would just age out...?
 
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IMO the best would be a 200k fully professional and mobile standing army, to give Germany a bloody nose as soon as it's starting making trouble.
That becomes a political, demographic and economic challenge.
Political because of fears about a military coup and because the previous war made military service and spending very unpopular. Demographic because there was a major shortage of fit military age men after the previous war. Put them in the army and other industries must do without.
Economic because in the 1920s money went on reconstruction and in the 30s there was a major worldwide recession.
 
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