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France steps up support for Ukraine with 155mm artillery

28th April 2022 - 14:15 GMT | by Jean-Marc Tanguy in Paris


Ukrainian long-range fires capabilities will be boosted by the arrival of 155mm Caesar self-propelled artillery pieces. (Photo: Jean-Marc Tanguy)

A dozen Caesar 155mm artillery systems will be delivered to Ukraine after France reverses a previous focus on providing defensive weapons.

Following a period of relatively muted materiel support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on 24 February, the French government on 22 April finally decided to raise the tempo by announcing it would deliver heavy weaponry to Kyiv.

In particular, a dozen Caesar 155mm self-propelled artillery systems on a 6x6 chassis will be transferred from French Army stocks, leaving 64 units in place.

France recently decided to order 32 new-generation Caesar 6x6 Mark II systems using a new chassis.

In terms of providing heavy weapons to Ukraine, there was speculation that artillery destined for Morocco could be diverted, but nothing seems to have come from this.

However, the commitment — confirmed by French President Emmanuel Macron — to send Caesar may displease the army, as senior officers have often complained they have insufficient artillery.

The 155mm guns, which will be delivered to Ukraine in a few weeks, will be accompanied by about 10,000 rounds of unspecified ammunition and training for Ukrainian artillery personnel (which began in late April).

This type of training (with live firing) is normally carried out at the army base in Canjuers near Marseilles, where demonstration firings are regularly carried out for export customers.

The pending Caesar deliveries follow more modest support for Ukraine from France, mainly in the form of MILAN antitank weapons. French officials only admitted these shipments under pressure from the media and other governments, especially the authorities in Kyiv who were critical of Macron for not doing enough.

As a NATO member, France has mobilised various capabilities to support the alliance’s response to Russian aggression. The French Air and Space Force deployed fighters deployed in Estonia within the Baltic Air Policing mission, while daily fighter patrols have been flown eastwards and E-3F AWACS aircraft have been active.

France has also deployed 550 soldiers in Romania and 250 more in Estonia as NATO enhances its forward posture in Eastern Europe. It is also allocated significant intelligence resources to monitor the Black Sea region, such as one of the two Transall C-160G Gabriel SIGINT aircraft.

A Beechcraft King Air 350 VADER was also flown operationally for the first time by the French Air and Space Force.

On the other hand, until recently France had emphasised that military equipment it was transporting to Ukraine was mainly defensive, such as body armour, helmets and logistical systems. With the imminent arrival of Caesar, it is clear that Paris has changed its posture.

However, open-source imagery of Russian MBTs destroyed or captured in Ukraine revealed one embarrassing fact. Some of these tanks were equipped with thermal-imaging fire control systems from Thales, supplied legally after 2014 through a loophole in EU sanctions imposed after the original Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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