PARIS (AP) – French manufacturers have reduced the manufacturing times for some of the weapons systems they supply to Ukraine by half or more, as France increasingly switches away from its previous policy of dipping into its own military stocks to support the war effort against Russia’s invasion, France’s defense minister said in an interview published Thursday.
“The logic of ceding materiel taken from the armies’ stocks is reaching its end,” the minister, Sébastien Lecornu, said in the interview with Le Parisien. “From now on, the solution is to directly connect French defense industries with the Ukrainian army.”
He cited the Caesar self-propelled 155 mm howitzer, made in France by Nexter, as an example of how French defense contractors are adopting a war footing. 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.
Nexter used to take 30 months to make one Caesar but now requires half that time, Lecornu said. The aim is to produce 78 Caesars this year, and Ukraine intends to pay for six of them itself, he said. France will also help finance Caesar deliveries and hopes other backers of Ukraine will also provide funding, he added.
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Ammunition production is also being ramped up. From the end of this month, France will supply Ukraine with 3,000 shells per month for its 155 mm guns, up from 1,000 shells in April 2023. Lecornu said. 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, he 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).
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.
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