By Agence France-Presse
France will ship 12 more Caesar truck-mounted howitzers and fresh air defence equipment to Ukraine to bolster the fight against Russian invaders, Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Tuesday. The artillery pieces, adding to 18 already delivered, would be financed from a 200-million-euro ($217-million) pot France set up to fund arms for Kyiv, Lecornu told a Paris press conference with his Ukranian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov.
The move comes with France yet to commit to sending Leclerc main battle tanks to Ukraine, after spending weeks pressuring Berlin to supply its Leopard 2 and allow allies to re-export the German-made tanks. Alongside other Western mobile cannons such as the German Panzerhaubitze 2000, the Caesar was credited last year with helping Ukraine strike targets deep behind Russian lines, undermining Moscow’s offensive.
The truck-mounted 155mm guns can set up, fire a highly-accurate volley at ranges of up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) and shift position before the enemy can locate them and fire back. Lecornu said the new batch of howitzers would be delivered “in the coming weeks” and had originally been ordered by Copenhagen. Denmark has also pledged its entire existing 19-strong fleet of the French-made howitzers to the Ukrainian war effort. “We’ve now reached a mass (of Caesar cannons) that cannot be overlooked,” Lecornu said.
Paris will also give Kiev a Ground Master 200 radar capable of detecting enemy aircraft at distances as far as 250 kilometres, including low-flying drones. The radar can also detect incoming rockets or artillery fire and warn friendly troops. France is also working “with our allies” on providing more missiles for its Crotale surface-to-air defence system, Lecornu said.
Around 15 countries operate the Crotale, including Greece, Finland and South Korea. “The Crotales destroy 100 percent of their targets, so it’s very important for closing the skies over Ukraine,” Reznikov said. Finally, Lecornu said 150 French troops would be sent to Poland to train Ukrainian soldiers.
Reznikov said he had not asked France for combat aircraft such as the widely exported Mirage series. But “tactical aviation is a component of our anti-air defence” and “we need to strengthen our capabilities”, he added.
France was by early December the seventh-largest supporter of Ukraine since the war broke out, according to data on military and financial aid collated by the Germany-based Institute for the World Economy think-tank. That ranking had not taken into account major announcements of military equipment for Kyiv last month, including AMX-10 RC light tanks, as well as Germany’s promise of the Leopard 2. But European donors remain far short of the United States’ military aid commitments.
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