France to deliver more Caesar artillery systems to Ukraine

The French government says it will send more Ceasar self-propelled artillery systems to Ukraine, while accelerating its national weapons manufacturing. 

This strategy announced Thursday is a two-pronged bid to avoid depleting its military stocks while continuing to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia’s invasion.

“The logic of ceding material taken from the armies’ stocks is reaching its end,” French defence minister Sébastien Lecornu, said in an interview. 

“From now on, the solution is to directly connect French defence industries with the Ukrainian army.”

78 Caesar cannons to Ukraine

France wants to deliver 78 Caesar self-propelled 155 mm howitzers to Ukraine this year. To do so, it launched a drive to fund the delivery. Ukraine has already paid for six of the guns itself and France will provide €50 million to deliver 12 more. To cover the remaining 60 systems, France is looking to Ukraine’s allies, Lecornu said separately in a speech. 

Speaking via video link, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov, said Russian forces are firing five times more artillery shells, even 10 times more in some places, than Ukrainian forces along the front lines. He stressed 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. 

He added that from January 2024 onwards, France aims to supply Ukraine with 3,000 shells for 155 mm guns per month. An increase from the initial 1,000 shells per month at the start of the war and 2,000 per month since last April.

Accelerating French weapons manufacturing

The production of other hardware is also increasing.

French manufacturer, Nexter, used to take 30 months to make one Caesar system. Now, it requires half the time. 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 defences, and MBDA’s production time for the Mistral short-range air-defence missile has also been substantially reduced, the minister said.

Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, France was among the countries that quickly released weapons from its armouries to help shore up Ukrainian defences. As well as Caesars, France has supplied light tanks, long-range cruise missiles, air defence systems and other hardware, support and military training. French aid is estimated to be worth billions of euros.

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 target Russian tanks better.

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