Emmanuel Macaron decided to congratulate the military in Cherbourg, at the naval base. Of course, a large number of military officials gathered. This meeting is the military-industrial part of the triple reform of the country’s «rearmament» that Macron initiated in the middle of his presidential term. The other two are civilian and European.
In his speech, the French president called on the military-industrial complex to «accelerate the transition to a wartime economy», or literally, to a «war economy» in order to respond more quickly to Ukraine’s needs. In short, this means that the sector’s productive capacities must operate faster and more powerfully.
«Yes, we had quite comfortable years, which of course allowed our defense industry to maintain the highest level of quality», Emmanuel Macron said. — «It was expensive, the flow of production was small, innovation was quite slow. Today’s world does not allow us to do that».
First of all, the president demanded that all holders of government defense contracts focus on production and delivery volumes, since France cannot afford to wait years for a defense order to be fulfilled, as was the case in the past. Now they have a war economy.
To back up his words with deeds, Macron (who, by the way, will personally appear in Kiev in a few weeks), announced new arms supplies to Ukraine. These include 40 long-range Scalp missiles, 50 AASM modular air-to-ground bombs per month for a year, additional production of 155-millimeter shells and funding for the production of 12 additional self-propelled howitzers Caesar for 50 million euros.
By the way, Caesar production has long been put on an accelerated schedule. The Nexter group, part of the Franco-German consortium KNDS, is in charge of this.
«With the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, we had to completely rethink the concept of our operations», says Nexter CEO Nicolas Chamussy, «we even began to think differently, reviewing the actions of almost every part of production to move it to the rails of the war economy».
As a result, if earlier 30 Caesars came off the assembly lines in 15 months, i.e. two per month, now they produce six per month, and can make eight if there are orders. In addition to Ukraine, 350 SPG are waiting to be delivered to 9 countries of the world — from Saudi Arabia to Czech Republic and Indonesia.
For such a leap, Nexter has purchased raw materials worth 300 million euros, in case of sudden disruptions, and produced a dozen self-propelled guns, without even waiting for orders and prepayments.
Nexter has almost doubled the number of employees at the factory producing APC and copied the production system of the automobile industry: not to assemble each APC at a single site, but to move it along a line, where each stage performs its own task. As a result, instead of 300 combat vehicles, the plan is to produce 450 in 2025. The same system was applied to the Caesars, where production was divided into four technological cycles.
France, as Macron said, promises to increase the production of shells, especially 155 mm. Kiev constantly complains about their chronic shortage. Nexter, in turn, is now increasing their production by 50 percent, and next year intends to double it.
«This will allow France to triple the supply of ammunition to Ukraine», says the country’s defense minister, Sebastien Lecornu. «Last year we sent 1,000 shells per month, at the beginning of 2024 we are going to supply 3,000».
But Nexter is the frontrunner in production.
“The others seem to realize very late that the political context is changing rapidly, it is important to deliver products as quickly as possible», Macron continued his speech. — “In a year and a half, there has been no progress, and some contracts, to my great regret, have not been fulfilled at all».
Besides Ukraine, the French defense industry has other places to spend its resources. The helicopter carrier Dixmude, stationed near Egypt, was converted into a hospital to treat the wounded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Red Sea, too, missiles had to be fired at the Yemeni Houthis. At the initiative of France and Italy, some European countries are discussing sending a joint force to the region to protect the EU’s economic interests.
Taking advantage of his visit to Cherbourg, Macron visited the country’s only technical school for military nuclear technicians. The institution itself has existed since 1958. Its graduates became employees of nuclear power facilities, and then, perhaps, they were already involved in servicing the army’s needs.
Last year the enrollment in the specialty «Maintenance of military nuclear facilities» was announced. 169 people applied, and 15 were accepted. For each next course, 30 people will be recruited. Applicants sign a contract with the Navy for 10 years, including 2 years of study. But they will be guaranteed a job on France’s nuclear submarines and on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.