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KNDS will set up a shop in Ukraine to repair heavy weapons and make ammunition

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PARIS – KNDS, the French-German maker of the Leopard tank and the Caesar howitzer, will set up a unit in Ukraine that will work with local companies to set up equipment maintenance, manufacture spare parts using 3D printing and produce 155 mm artillery shells.

KNDS hopes to establish the subsidiary in Ukraine later in June after months of talks, chairman Philippe Petitcolin said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony in Paris attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu and the CEO from KNDS France, Nicolas Chamussy.

“The signature marks the beginning of a new era between us and Ukraine, as we will have a wholly owned subsidiary of KNDS, both in the German and French parts, and from there we will be able to cooperate with Ukrainian companies,” Petitcolin said. . “We are in discussions with many companies.”

Ukraine has 386 KNDS equipment, mainly Leopard tanks and Caesar guns, and the company still has 250 units to deliver based on orders received, which according to Petitcolin translates into a need for “a lot of support”.

Chamussy, CEO of KNDS France, signed letters of intent with Ukraine’s ENMEK for setting up a maintenance center for Caesar guns and for 3D printing of spare parts, as well as a contract with KZVV to transfer the production of 155mm shells.

The maintenance center will not require French technicians because Ukraine already provides Caesar maintenance with replacement parts shipped from France, Chamussy said. “The Ukrainians know very well how to do this,” he said.

According to Petitcolin, KNDS France currently produces one Caesar car howitzer per week. The company is on track with plans to increase production rates from four to six per month, Chamussy said.

“If demand continues, we know how to increase the pace from once a week. We know how to do better, we know how to do more, but of course it all depends on the demands we receive,” said Petitcolin. He said the company has concrete Caesar orders for 2024, but not yet for 2025, although “there will undoubtedly be some contracts” during the Eurosatory defense show starting June 17.

KNDS France has the capacity to increase total artillery production to 12 guns per month, according to Chamussy. In addition to the Caesar self-propelled gun, the company also makes the 105 mm LG1 towed artillery piece.

According to Petitcolin, KNDS plans to start ammunition production with its local Ukrainian partner within twelve months. In a next step, the company could produce system modules or even entire systems in Ukraine, the chairman said.

Minister of the French Armed Forces Lecornu commented on the plans to transfer Mirage 2000-5 jets to Ukraine, saying that the aircraft in question are currently in service with the French Air Force, including for NATO air police missions in Estonia and Romania. The aircraft will be gradually withdrawn from service until 2030 and replaced by the Rafale.

“So we’re talking about fighter jets that are fully operational,” Lecornu said. He declined to say how many planes France will transfer, or which countries might join a Mirage coalition.

Lecornu said it is urgent to start training Ukrainian pilots on the Mirage 2000. He said France has been training pilots on the French-German Alpha Jet for several months, but the Mirage “is a different category.” French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that training normally lasts five to six months, meaning Ukrainian pilots could be flying the Mirage 2000-5s by the end of the year.

Lecornu also discussed French plans to train a brigade of 4,500 Ukrainian soldiers, saying rebuilding capacity is “the big priority” for the Ukrainian army. The country faces the challenge of training 15 to 20 brigades, which he described as an “absolutely significant effort.”

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