France is fully committed to throwing its military-industrial might behind Ukraine’s war effort, and Paris’ immediate priority is arming Kyiv with high-tech precision-guided bombs and advanced artillery pieces, French Defense Minister Sebastian Lecornu said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a government presentation to media called “Industrial Strengthening: Arms and Munitions,” Lecornu said his government intends to overhaul France’s military production and increase capacity and output, and that the Ukrainian military will receive a healthy share of the weaponry.

French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu (left) and French Ambassador to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins stand in front of the memorial wall of soldiers who fell during the Russo-Ukrainian war in Kyiv during a Dec. 28 2022 visit to the Ukrainian capital. Photo AFP

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Russian aggression in Europe has forced France to take steps to re-arm and improve its ability to protect itself from conventional military threats, and committing the resources to arm Ukraine is a key piece of that strategy, the defense minister said during a meeting with reporters lasting almost two hours.

Lecornu told reporters France in 2024 intends to manufacture 600 AASM guided bombs and that production will double to 1,200 in 2025, and that deliveries to Ukraine should continue as planned.

One of the most sophisticated bomb guidance systems manufactured, the AASM or Armement Air-Sol Modulair is a guidance kit fitted to a conventional bomb that uses flip-out wings, a laser-seeker, inertial guidance, GPS positioning, movable control fins and a small rocket engine to fly a munition to precise locations.

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SSO operators inflicted fire damage on Russian positions and personnel using FPV drones and a 122 mm D-30 howitzer.

Crewmen at France’s Biscarosse missile test range prepare an AASM guided bomb for upload onto an aircraft. Photo published in 2011 by the DGA flight center. 

Bomb performance varies depending on altitude of bomb drop, speed of aircraft, type of guidance available, and weight of munition, among other factors. At maximum rated performance a “dumb” bomb fitted with an AASM guidance system could theoretically plant a powerful 250 kg. munition within one meter of an aiming point, at a range in excess of 70 km.

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The weapon, sometimes called HAMMER, was purpose-designed for use by France’s front-line Rafale and Mirage 2000 tactical multi-role fighters. It has been in production since 2012.

On the Ukrainian battlefield, Russian bomb guidance kits currently in use are about half as capable as an AASM-fitted bomb, or its comparable US counterpart, the laser-guided JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bomb guidance kit.

Lecornu said discussions with Ukrainian military engineers are in progress to adapt the French AASM bomb kit to American F-16 fighter jets donated to Kyiv from Denmark and the Netherlands. The first six F-16s, with trained Ukrainian pilots, reportedly will reach the Ukrainian Air Force by May or June. Since March the Ukrainian Air Force has used modified MiG-29 fighters to make AASM drops.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Jan. 16 first announced planned deliveries of 50 AASM bomb kits a month. The first publicly reported use of the weapon was on March 4, in the southern Kherson sector.

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Production of France’s powerful SCALP cruise missile, a weapon used by Ukraine in multiple successful strikes against Russian warships, will be restarted, and in 2024, 40 of the missiles will be produced, Lecornu said. He did not indicate how many, if any, would go to Ukraine.

France will up its artillery ammunition manufacture to about 100,000 shells in 2024, Lecornu said, and of those munitions 80,000 155mm rounds will got to Ukraine. Currently, French 155mm shell delivery to Ukraine is “reaching” 2,000 units a month, he said. Some military analysts have questioned whether French industry is capable of more than quadrupling national shell production in nine months.

The French government will, if needed, use constitutional powers allowing the state to requisition industrial capacity and set arms manufacturer priorities, and mandate minimum stocks, to accelerate the production of shells and other military material for Ukraine, Lecornu said.

“We need things to go quicker, to change faster. This is important for Ukraine and the credibility of our military,” he said. “I have the authority.”

Production of France’s advanced Caesar self-propelled howitzers for Ukraine is on track and a total 78 systems will be delivered to Kyiv by the end of 2024, Lecornu said. France, Denmark, and Ukraine are financing the production at facilities owned by Nexter, the major French arms manufacturer.

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France also will donate as military aid to Ukraine VAB armored personnel carriers and AMX-10 reconnaissance vehicles from existing stocks, Lecornu said.

Both vehicles are lightly armored and built on wheeled chassis and designed for expeditionary warfare often against insurgents in Africa and Asia. On the Ukrainian battlefield wheeled vehicles not designed for intense conventional warfare, no matter the manufacturer, have had problems moving in mud conditions, or riding out strikes by FPV drones or modern artillery.

Ukrainian crewmen from 55th Artillery Brigade take cover as a French-made Caesar 155mm howitzer fires a shell at Russia-controlled territory during a battle in eastern Ukraine in June 2022. First delivered in small numbers in Spring 2022, the weapon is accounted to be superior to practically all Russian army artillery, and one of the most powerful cannon on the Ukrainian battlefield. Photo by ARIS MESSINIS AFP.

The Ukrainian news magazine Ukrainska Pravda, in a Wednesday article on French President Emmanuel Macron’s outspoken commitment to military support to Ukraine, said that US officials have been rattled by Paris’ anti-Kremlin rhetoric.

On March 5, during a speech in Prague, Macron called on the US and Ukraine’s European allies not to be “cowardly” in dealings with Moscow, and said Paris was considering the deployment of French troops to Ukraine.

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On March 21, Putin ally Pyotr Tolstoy, vice-president of Russia’s rubber stamp parliament the Duma, said it would take “just two minutes to nuke Paris”were French troops to deploy to Ukraine. Lecornu said France is a sovereign nuclear power and would take all steps necessary, including “massive military investment,” to guarantee French security.

Although the Macron government in recent months has led the verbal assault against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, by material standards other states have contributed more. Probably most substantial has been a Czech Republic initiative kicked off in February to source critically needed artillery shells for the Ukrainian army by buying them on international markets rather than waiting for slow-to-gear-up EU production.

By late March some 800,000 shells had been located and funded, and Prague officials had declared another 700,000 found and ready for purchase. Most European states have kicked in funding to the Czech shell purchasing plan, but not France. Germany had promised $325 million to buy 180,000 shells. According to the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine Support Tracker, German support to Ukraine of all types at about $25 billion is more than ten times larger than France’s.

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The single nation that has donated the most support to Ukraine, on an individual basis, is the US, but Congressional in-fighting brought American assistance to Ukraine to a halt in December.

The EU is according to the Kiel Institute Ukraine’s top supporter by a three to one margin over the US. The relative American contribution to Ukraine support is less once individual European nation contributions and halted US assistance are taken into account, the data showed.

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Comments (12)

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Ian Brodie
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Great reporting once more

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Ian
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Once again a very insightful article. Thank you

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Stop Putin
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France can help with drone production in Ukraine also. Perhaps more bang per Franc. Don’t need French boots on Ukrainian soil. Magnific France.

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Leslie Adrian
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This war pointless and Ukraine and Russia need to talk

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JOHN THE LOON FROM CANADA DESERVES NO ACCOLADES
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Give Kyiv the long range missiles that leaves no square centimeter of sovereign Ukrainian territory currently under Russian occupation safe for Russians to occupy. All countries should commit such resources to Ukraine, including the United States. World peace can be achieved by destroying Putrid's forces in Ukraine. The Russian Federation could collapse forcing Mother Russia to destroy/dismantle their entire nuclear weapons stockpile. Slava Ukraini!

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John
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The spirit of Napoleon

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Sasha
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let's hope it's true! To date, militarily speaking, France has not really done anything

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DB
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FRANCE JE T'AIME !!!
I LOVE YOU !!!!
COME ON EU !!!! FOLLOW FRANCES LEAD!!!!!
FIGHT !!!!!!
GLORY TO UKRAINE !!!!

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Dimitry Merdevedev
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On March 21, Putin ally Pyotr Tolstoy, vice-president of Russia’s rubber stamp parliament the Duma, said it would take “just two minutes to nuke Paris”

What a prick.

How much longer does he think Moscow would continued to exist after that? An hour at most.

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John
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Frances growingly hawkish stance towards Russia is both appreciated and growingly merited . France has a very advanced weapons industry and they, as with other EU allies, need to fix the gap created by USA's fading weapons supply.

As the democratic world's premier weapons vendor, the many benefits the USA has enjoyed are growingly at risk. The trickle down impact to their economy is huge.

According to former USA Ambassador Brinker and a former NATO head Breedlove today:

"Sending aid to Ukraine is not merely an act of charity; it is an economic investment here at home. Funds that lawmakers approve to arm Ukraine are being used stateside to build new weapons or to replace weapons sent to Kyiv from U.S. stockpiles.

In fact, of the $68 billion in military and related assistance Congress has approved since Russia invaded Ukraine, almost 90 percent is going to Americans. The American Enterprise Institute has identified 117 production lines in at least 31 states and 71 cities where American workers are producing major weapons systems for Ukraine."

It's hard to win back clients. Will the USA be able to afford its advanced weapons innovation, if costs are not shared with its prime foreign buyers?

db
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@John, John thank you for all your excellent comments and Support for the Ukraine !!! 👍👍
GLORY TO UKRAINE !!!!

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Jack Griffen
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@John, and also funny how the mighty US cant protect their own border for the last 110 years. Their border is now used for brownie points. Giving Kyiv what they need was a big win win for both. Trusted friends turn ape shit because of stupid politics. Time waits for no one. Europe is in the deep end , they better stay afloat and learn to swim .... faster.

DB
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@Jack Griffen, Jack thank you for supporting the Ukraine sir.....

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db
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@John, YOU ARE AN ASSET SIR !!!!

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einstein technein
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five stars for tree eyeing to degrade and dehue einstein tech"nein!!" for two long (be careful what you wish four) [un sic]

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🃏this is more different culture (difficult) to check than to shortcut however me sires your a bell eye dis tie to do this

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Hope
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To use weapons more effectively , target the ammunition deposits and storage facilities of rockets on the ground ...satellite images and GPS guided systems do help as well in identification of more important targets while avoiding civilians or any or some peaceful civil target at the same time ...

May peace come sooner than later though ...

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