Artillery price

With Ukraine in the lead, France and Germany purchase and modernize artillery

The French-made Caesar truck-mounted artillery system, shown during a demonstration at Eurosatory 2022. (Photo: Christina Mackenzie/Breaking Defense)

PARIS: The conflict in Ukraine is pushing the military in Europe to complete and modernize their land forces, as evidenced recently by the French order of artillery to fill the systems given to Ukraine and the German project to modernize a system of rocket artillery.

Nexter, the French land armament company, is to manufacture 18 Caesar Mk1 truck-mounted howitzers and deliver them all to the French army by summer 2024, a company spokesperson told Breaking today. Defense. The howitzers will replace the 18 that France initially “lent” to Ukraine – a loan that turned into a gift. In order to obtain these new Caesars so quickly, the Ministry of the Armed Forces ordered the Mk1 version mounted on 6×6 trucks.

The spokesperson said the Caesar Mk1 production line had been reactivated in recent weeks to allow delivery of the 155mm gun systems in less than 24 months. The company had ceased production of the Caesar Mk1, as it is replaced by the MkII, which will equip the artillery regiments of the French army from 2026 and the Belgian army in 2027. Lithuania also signed a letter of intent for the acquisition of 18 Caesar. MkII.

Although the Mk1 can be upgraded to the MkII, the spokesman said that “the current intention is that these newer Mk1s will not be retrofitted”. He added that the howitzers would be delivered in batches over periods of three months.

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Meanwhile in Germany, as part of the process of modernizing the Medium Artillery Rocket System (MARS II), put into service by the Bundeswehr since the 1990s, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann signed a memorandum of understanding with Elbit Systems Deutschland, the Israeli company’s German branch, and Elbit Systems Land to receive an “advanced portfolio of MLRS capabilities, from long-range rocket trainer munitions,” according to the companies’ joint statement today. (Krauss-Maffei Wegmann owns 50% of the KNDS group, Nexter owns the remaining 50%).

“Elbit will provide a modern active agent portfolio,” the statement continued, adding that “users will also be able to train in combined arms operations.”

On July 26, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told the Bundestag (parliament) that Ukrainian soldiers had started training in Germany in June to use the MARS II. She said that when their training is complete, Germany will send three such systems to Ukraine in addition to the three sent by the UK and four by the US. Additionally, KMW received the green light from the German Economy Ministry on July 13 to produce 100 Panserhaubitze 2000 howitzers which Ukraine has ordered for 1.7 billion euros ($1.74 billion). Germany has already sent nine of these artillery systems to Ukraine from its own inventory.

Germany will also send 16 Biber bridge tanks to Ukraine to “enable Ukrainian troops to cross water or combat obstacles”, the Defense Ministry said in a statement today. “Delivery of the first six systems will take place this year, starting in the fall. Ten more systems will follow next year.

Public support in Germany for sending arms to Ukraine is consistent but not overwhelming. In a series of regular surveys conducted by Forsa, one of Germany’s leading market research and opinion polling companies, between 54% and 61% of respondents in western Germany were in favor to military support, but only 32% in the east.

Madeline Wild, associate defense analyst at GlobalData, a London-based data analytics and consulting firm, agrees. “Public acceptance” is an issue for the German Defense Ministry. “The German public is relatively more cautious, and more focused on arms control,” she said.

In its latest report on the German defense market, GlobalData reports that Germany’s pledge to increase its defense budget to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024, with that figure maintained thereafter averaged over a rolling five-year period, will equate to a defense budget of $82.0 billion in 2024, rising to $85.7 billion in 2027.

But Wild warns that “it lacks a strong defense industrial strategy, which means the country is not unlocking the full potential of its relationship with industry.”

In addition, persistent problems with the purchasing department (BAAINBw) resulted in 10% of the acquisition budget not being spent in some years. Wild said “problems within the BAAINBw are well known, with low staffing and overly bureaucratic procedures” preventing the defense budget from being spent effectively.