Australia, France cooperate to produce artillery shells for Ukraine

Australia and France are expected to jointly produce thousands of 155 mm shells for Ukraine, a sign of improving relations after tensions over the submarine deal.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu on January 30 announced that France and Australia have agreed to cooperate in the production of thousands of 155 mm artillery shells for Ukraine, expressing hope that the handover process can take place in the first quarter of this year. . Australian companies will supply the explosives and propellant, while France’s Nexter is responsible for making the ammunition.

“The defense industries of the two countries have the ability to work together to allow this agreement to be implemented. We want to act together to demonstrate the importance of France and Australia to Ukraine’s aid efforts.” Mr. Lecornu said.

Inside the production line of 155 mm artillery shells in Queensland, Australia, in 2022. Photo: The Australian.

Inside the production line of 155 mm artillery shells in Queensland, Australia, in 2022. Photo: The Australian.

The announcement came after Minister Lecornu met with his Australian counterpart Richard Marles, marking the first high-level meeting between officials of the two countries since diplomatic tensions erupted in 2021 when Canberra canceled a contract to buy ships. underground worth tens of billions of dollars with Paris.

However, Minister Marles insisted Australia would not seek to buy more conventional submarines before acquiring US-built nuclear submarines, despite French officials’ desire to reach such an agreement in the coming years.

The Australian Department of Defense in 2016 signed a contract with the French Naval Group to build 12 diesel-electric attack submarines of the Block 1A variant of the Barracuda class. This was originally a class of nuclear-powered submarines of France, but was modified into a conventional submarine for sale to Australia.

The $40 billion contract was one of the largest military deals in the world at the time. However, the program has been repeatedly delayed and funded, leaving Australian officials increasingly skeptical of its effectiveness.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government in September 2021 announced the cancellation of the contract with the Naval Group, which decided to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines thanks to technology transferred from the US and UK, as part of an alliance agreement. three parties named AUKUS.

The move has caused a rare diplomatic tension between France and the three countries participating in AUKUS. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the AUKUS deal a “stab in the back”, while French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Mr Morrison and said Canberra lied in canceling the deal.

Bilateral relations continued to cool until May 2022, when Anthony Albanese was elected Prime Minister of Australia to replace Morrison. Prime Minister Albanese then announced a compensation of $ 584 million to Naval Group for canceling the contract.

It’s not clear how long the AUKUS submarine deal will last. The first nuclear submarines may not be launched for decades to come, leaving a huge void for the Australian navy, which operates six outdated diesel-electric submarines.

Vu Anh (Theo Reuters)

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