The artillery coalition for Ukraine, co-led by France and the US, launches in Paris.
France will give 12 more Caesar self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu said Thursday, amid accusations that Paris is not pulling its weight in supplying weapons to Kyiv.
Speaking at the launch of the so-called artillery coalition — a group of 23 countries willing to think about Ukraine’s long-term artillery needs — Lecornu said that Nexter will produce 78 Caesar cannons specifically for Ukraine. In addition to the dozen that France will provide, Kyiv has bought six more expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.
Now, Lecornu is asking Western countries to help pay for the rest.
“That leaves 60 [howitzers] to be financed, and I appeal to our allies to share the bill. We’re talking about €280 million, accessible to the various budgets of our allies,” the French minister said. If other countries produce military kit for Ukraine that French industry doesn’t manufacture, Paris will be ready to contribute financially, he added.
France and the U.S. are leading the artillery coalition, one of five groups designed to plan for Ukraine’s long-term military needs. The remaining four groups focus on surface-to-air defense — the coalition was launched in Berlin late last year and is co-led by France and Germany — as well as air forces, naval forces and mine clearance.
“Increasing our artillery capability will increase our security and will bring our victory closer,” said Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov in a video speech. “As the situation on the battlefield shows, there is no substitute for modern artillery.”
France is often accused of being a laggard when it comes to military aid to Ukraine, compared with other countries such as Germany and the U.K. — an accusation regularly rejected by French officials, including Lecornu. However, earlier this week, French senators said France didn’t have a long-term strategy to produce enough weaponry for Kyiv.
On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that France was finalizing a bilateral security deal with Kyiv and that he’ll travel to Ukraine in February. He added Paris would send Kyiv SCALP long-range cruise missiles and “hundreds of bombs.”
Lecornu said Thursday that each month France will deliver 50 Safran-made AASM air-to-surface precision guided munitions that were adapted for Ukraine’s Soviet-era warplanes. As well as sending weapons, France aims to train between 7,000 and 9,000 Ukrainian troops this year, he announced.
Overall, Ukraine has received 49 Caesar howitzers since the war started. France will buy the additional 12 using €50 million from its €200 million special fund for Ukraine agreed by lawmakers last year.
France will also use feedback from the Ukrainians to improve the equipment, Lecornu said, namely by injecting more artificial intelligence and adding loitering munitions, also known as kamikaze drones.
“All this is possible because Nexter has switched to a war economy when it comes to the Caesar howitzers,” the French minister told reporters after the launch, mentioning that producing a cannon now takes 15 months instead of 30. France will be able to send 3,000 shells of ammunition to Ukraine per month by end-January, compared with 1,000 two years ago, he added.