“We note that the war will unfortunately last,” the newspaper quoted the minister as saying. “A new generation of soldiers must also be trained to be able to maintain the distance.”
France had previously trained Ukrainian artillery troops to use Caesar’s self-propelled howitzers it supplied.
The extensive training France is now offering is “a very important step,” the minister said. “We’re changing the scale.”
The minister said Crotale batteries for air defense missiles that France is preparing to send to Ukraine “will be particularly useful in the fight against drones and against aerial bombardments”.
France has 12 of the batteries, the minister said. He did not specify how many of them will go to Ukraine, but said that “it will be important to enable them to defend their airspace.”
The goal is for Ukraine to deploy them within two months, including training time for Ukrainians to use them, the minister said.
France has supplied 18 Caesar artillery pieces and is in talks to supply six more. Lecornu said France is also studying a Ukrainian request for missile launch weapons.
France has also set up a fund of 100 million euros ($97 million) “that Ukrainians can use to buy whatever they want, provided the supplier is French,” the minister said.
Among the recipients of the first Ukrainian orders using the fund is a French company that will supply pontoon bridges, he said.
France’s dipping of its arms stockpile to supply Ukraine has also put the country’s own defense needs in the spotlight.
Lecornu said the Crotale batteries destined for Ukraine will be replaced by the more modern Mamba air defense system, which is expected to be part of the security shield around the 2024 Paris Olympics.
France has also placed orders to replenish its stock of Caesar guns, replacing those sent to Ukraine, the minister said.
France’s 2023 defense budget will rise to its highest level since World War II, at 44 billion euros ($42.8 billion), he said. That compares with €32.3 billion in 2017, when Macron won his first term, the minister said.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine