PARIS — French defense firms have boosted production of self-propelled guns, artillery shells, fighter jets and anti-air missiles, the country’s armed forces minister said Monday.
The announcement by Sébastien Lecornu comes as France aims to boost the delivery of weaponry to Ukraine, which is fighting off a Russian invasion, and more than a year after French President Emmanuel Macron called for the country to embrace a “war economy.”
France plans to increase its monthly deliveries of 155mm shells, from 1,000 per month in January 2023 to 3,000 per month in January 2024, Lecornu said.
“Concrete results of a shift to a war economy,” Lecornu wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, following a visit to a local Nexter Systems facility in Roanne, which manufactures the truck-mounted 155mm howitzer Caesar. “To replenish our capacities transferred to Ukraine and to continue to supply all of our allies.”
Nexter has raised production of the Caesar to six per month from two at the start of 2022, Lecornu added, and the pace will increase to eight systems per month from the start of next year.
The company is providing operational support for all Caesar systems in service in Ukraine, using virtual reality to guide Ukrainian engineers through maintenance operations, Nexter CEO Nicolas Chamussy told Defense News at an industry forum outside Paris this month. He said a total of 49 Caesar systems were sent to Ukraine, including 19 from Denmark.
Lecornu had said last month that Nexter will supply an additional six Caesar weapons to Ukraine, in addition to 18 already supplied from French Army stocks and 12 that Ukraine acquired directly from Nexter’s parent firm KNDS.
Meanwhile, MBDA has doubled its production of the Mistral short-range surface-to-air missile to 40 per month; Dassault Aviation has tripled production of the Rafale fighter aircraft to three per month; and Thales has tripled its radar production capacity, according to Lecornu.
Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine has meant France must shift to a long-term war economy, Macron said at the Eurosatory defense show in June 2022, while the country needs land-based weapon systems and sufficient funding for national security.
France passed a military budget in August for the 2024-2030 period that boosts defense spending next year by 7.5%, to €47.2 billion (U.S. $49.6 billion).
Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.