France, Australia to jointly send new ammunition to Ukraine.
By Vivienne Machi
France and Australia have committed to jointly provide 155-millimetre ammunition to Ukraine, the nations’ defence ministries announced Tuesday.
French defence contractor Nexter will be tasked to manufacture the artillery shells, while Australia will provide the powder, according to the French Ministry of Defence. The agreement was made during a Jan. 30 meeting between French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu and Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna, and their Australian counterparts, Defence Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, in Paris.
The Ukrainian Army has expended roughly 3,000 rounds per day defending its territory against Russia’s invading forces, U.S. defence officials shared last year. Last week, the U.S. Army announced plans to rapidly expand its production capacity of 155mm artillery shells, to meet both Kiev’s demand for ammunition and that of U.S. forces.
The “unprecedented partnership” to build new artillery rounds comes as France and Australia continue to repair diplomatic relations following Australia’s 2021 decision to cancel a multibillion-dollar contract for French-made, diesel-powered submarines and instead join a tri-national partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom – known collectively as AUKUS. That pact is centred on technology collaboration, particularly regarding nuclear reactors for Canberra’s submarines. Australia in June 2022 agreed to pay contractor Naval Group €555 million (U.S. $602 million) in compensation.
At Monday’s meeting, the ministers also signed a declaration of intent between Paris and Canberra on military space cooperation, according to a joint statement. Areas of focus include earth observation, space situational awareness and satellite communication capabilities for defence.
France committed last year to supply 18 Nexter-built Caesar howitzers to the Ukrainian Army; on Tuesday, Lecornu announced plans to send an additional 12 Caesars to Kiev in the coming weeks, during a press conference alongside Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Rezniknov in Paris. The howitzers are outfitted with 155mm guns that can fire at ranges of up to 40 kilometres (25 miles). Denmark also recently committed to sending its entire stock of 19 Caesar howitzers to Ukraine.
The deliveries will be supported by a €200 million (U.S. $217 million) fund set up by France’s parliament to support arming Ukraine. On Wednesday, France’s defence ministry plans to sign a deal with technology company Thales to provide the company’s Ground Master 200 multimission radar to Kiev, also supported via the military arms fund, Lecornu shared at the press briefing.
As of October 2022, Australia has provided Ukraine with a total of approximately AUS $655 million (U.S. $462 million) in support, including AUS $475 million in military assistance and at least 90 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, according to Canberra’s Defence Ministry.