Paris: France announced more planned deliveries of its Caesar artillery system to Ukraine on Thursday and accelerating weapons manufacturing as it seeks to avoid depleting its own military stocks while continuing to support the war effort against Russia’s invasion.
“The logic of ceding materiel taken from the armies’ stocks is reaching its end,” the French defense minister, Sébastien Lecornu, said in an interview with Le Parisien. “From now on, the solution is to directly connect French defense industries with the Ukrainian army.”
France also launched a drive to fund the delivery of 78 Caesar self-propelled 155 mm howitzers to Ukraine this year. Ukraine has already paid for six of the guns itself and France will provide 50 million euros (US$ 54 million) to deliver 12 more, Lecornu said separately in a speech. France is also seeking 280 million euros ($305 million) from other allies of Ukraine to pay for the 60 other Caesars, the minister said.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, speaking by video link, said Russian forces are firing five times more artillery shells, even 10 times more in some places, than Ukrainian forces along the front lines and that stronger artillery “is one of our key needs to win this war.”
“Shortage of ammunition, shell hunger, is a very real and pressing problem,” he said.
Lecornu said increased supplies of shells for Ukraine are on their way. From this month, France will supply 3,000 shells for 155 mm guns per month, up from 1,000 shells per month at the start of the war and 2,000 per month since last April, Lecornu said
The production of other hardware is also increasing.
French manufacturer Nexter used to take 30 months to make one Caesar but now requires half that time, Lecornu told Le Parisien. Caesars are among an array of Western-supplied artillery systems that have given Ukrainian gun crews an edge, especially when paired with high-precision munitions, against Russian artillery batteries using older Soviet-designed systems.
Thales now takes six months — down from 18 months — to deliver one of its GM200 radars that have been provided to Ukraine for its air defenses, and MBDA’s production time for the Mistral short-range air-defense missile has also been substantially reduced, the minister said.
Following Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine, France was among countries that quickly released weapons from its own armories to help shore up Ukrainian defenses. As well as Caesars, France has supplied light tanks, long-range cruise missiles, air defense systems and other hardware, support and military training. Combined, French aid is estimated to be worth billions of euros (dollars).
Lecornu said 49 previously delivered Caesars are in operation in Ukraine. Based on battlefield feedback, the system is being improved to enable Ukrainian gunners to better target Russian tanks, the minister said.
More deliveries are promised. French President Emmanuel Macron this week announced plans to supply about 40 additional long-range Storm Shadow missiles and “several hundred bombs.” He also announced his intention to travel again to Ukraine next month, saying, “We cannot let Russia win.”
But because of concerns about depleting their own defenses with Russia increasingly gearing up for protracted war, France and other backers of Ukraine are seeking other ways to continue supplying Kyiv’s defense needs for the long haul.
“In this phase of the war, we need endurance in our military aid for Kyiv,” Lecornu said. “Russia is betting that time is on its side.”
He said Russia, Iran and North Korea are scrutinizing the mettle of Ukraine’s partners.
“Our capacity to show endurance and reliability is being watched in Moscow, and Pyongyang or Tehran for that matter,” he said.