How does France help Ukraine rearm and why is military aid from Paris very important to Kyiv?
Airbus, boats, and Milan 2
France took an active part in rearming Ukraine even before February 24: there were contracts to provide Airbus helicopters for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, boats for the Coast Guard, and electronic warfare equipment for battalions.
That’s why, after the full-scale invasion began, Paris was one of the first among the EU countries to send us Milan 2 ATGMs, the T modification, as early as March.
These tandem missiles, guided by radio, can still hit most of the Russian tanks frontally, although they are second-generation missiles, not "fire-and-forget" ones, and have all the intrinsic problems, including danger to the shooter and smoke obscuring the line of sight.
But for many of our newly created brigades, they are better than grenade launchers and four magazines for assault rifles. This was what they call a stitch in time, along with the British NLAWs, American FGM-148 Javelin, and German Panzerfaust 3.
Several dozens of these systems have been seen both on the frontline and in the training of personnel; now, according to open sources, there are up to 50 of them.
Mistral, Javelin, and CAESAR self-propelled howitzers
Approximately at the same time, we saw Mistral MANPADSs: they were given by Norway, but France gave its permission as a producer. The French also gave their own Javelins: the final number of 6 thousand launchers is probably the total effort by the West.
Since then, Paris has increased its aid to Kyiv. But paradoxically, the French aid is less in monetary terms than that from Germany, although it’s the Germans we call "liver sausages" for their constant "flexible" position.
The main thing is, obviously, the Caesar: 18 machines of the "world's first serial howitzer installed on a 6x6 truck chassis". Of them, 12 are already in Ukraine, and six are being transferred.
A battalion. By the standards of once-inexhaustible Soviet stocks, it appears to be not much.
But if we remember how the French army reported to the National Assembly that they had 76 combat-ready 155 Caesar howitzers, the situation looks different.
Giving nearly a quarter of one’s stocks of self-propelled artillery is the same as if we donated someone a hundred and a half of 2S1 Gvozdika and 2S3 Akatsiya howitzers for the sake of freedom and democracy.
This howitzer works at the level of the senior commander’s artillery in the 55th Artillery Brigade: it wouldn't be practical to pull them apart among platoons instead of using them as a single unit for the purpose of supply and command.
It takes only 60 seconds for the Caesar to prepare for firing or leave the firing position, which helps avoid counter-battery fire. The cabin, armored to STANAG level 2, withstands firearms and shards.
The firing rate is six rounds a minute, so a battery of six howitzers can throw two tons of metal at the enemy, while each vehicle carries a supply of up to 18 rounds.
Smart mines and access to intelligence data
An L52 155 mm howitzer can fire rocket-assisted shells at an impressive range of 42 km or Bonus shells (which carry two smart anti-tank submunitions) at a whopping 34 km, which is very far for anti-tank munitions. There were also Ogre shells, but France signed the convention on the prohibition of cluster munitions and, unfortunately, they were destroyed in 2018.
Another interesting supply was the HPD-2A2 smart anti-tank landmines, which are activated by a target of 8 tons or more, hit it in the bottom with a warhead piercing up to 150-mm armor, have a seismic sensor and also a sensor of the magnetic field produced by mine detectors, which helps counter enemy deminers.
Like the German DM31 anti-bottom mines, they are a good means against Russian tanks riding around and breaking through our lines on critical axes.
In addition, France provided fuel, ammunition, bulletproof vests, hundreds of power generators, and probably one of the most important things, access to images made by French military satellites and intelligence data on Russia.
In 2014, tons of shells and rockets were fired "somewhere over there", but now, since we have access to the Alliance’s pool of targets, it’s clear to see how the number of Russian arms and rocket depots hit by our artillery has increased, as they incredibly go off in temporarily occupied Kadiivka, Nova Kakhovka, Chornobaivka, Donetsk, and Shakhtarsk.
Right now, France is busy implementing a large project of delivering to Ukraine a batch of VAB armored personnel carriers, a battle taxi with armor protecting it from bullets and shards, which can swim and tow, for instance, a mortar, or carry an infantry squad.
It’s nothing special, but the fact that France is actively engaged in providing vehicles to new Ukrainian units created after the full-scale Russian invasion is also important. Especially since they have interesting command vehicles and anti-tank systems, not just "naked" APVs.
In total, a quarter of Caesars from the current stocks, thousands of shells (i presume, a standard number of 2000–2200 per gun a month for rhythmic work besides key battles), satellite data, Milan and Javelin anti-tank missiles from storage, boats and helicopters. France continues to provide aid to Ukraine, which is extremely important for our fight against the aggressor.