France has ordered firms involved in production of Aster air defence missiles to prioritise those contracts, Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Monday.

It was "the first time" he had used special powers to compel queue-jumping for defence orders, meaning "civilian orders must from now on have lower priority," Lecornu said in Calvi, Corsica, where he was meeting his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto.

"Players in the defence industry must understand that they have to work faster, and that the country's future depends on this work," Crosetto said.

Aster 15 and 30 missiles are produced by pan-European manufacturer MBDA, and Italy and France have supplied an unspecified number to Ukraine as it defends against Russian invaders.

Kyiv has asked for more of the missiles, which have also been used to defend against drones launched by Yemen's Huthi rebels against ships in the Red Sea.


A source familiar with the matter said a major supplier affected by the order was Aubert et Duval, which produces specialist steel for items including submarines and the barrels for Caesar truck-mounted cannons supplied to Ukraine.

MBDA says it will reduce production times for Aster missiles to "less than 18 months by 2026" -- from 42 months in 2022.

Output of Asters should increase by 50 percent over the same timeframe, CEO Eric Beranger has said.

One brake on production is the fact that missile components "cross the Alps several times" during the manufacturing process.

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Lecornu said it was "urgent to simplify the bureaucracy" around shipping the weapons between France and Italy.

Final assembly of Aster missiles currently takes place in France, but Lecornu said he looked "favourably" on Rome's request to set up a second production line in Italy.

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