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​France is Preparing Aster 30 Missiles and VAB Vehicles for Transfer to Ukraine

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French-made VAB personnel carrier in service with the Ukrainian army / Photo credit Air Assault Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
French-made VAB personnel carrier in service with the Ukrainian army / Photo credit Air Assault Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

New package of military aid has been unofficially announced by French Minister of Defense Sébastien Lecornu, Le Monde reports citing the minister's interview with La Tribune. The commitment encompasses Aster 30 interceptor missiles for SAMP/T air defense systems and "hundreds of old but still functional" armored vehicles, mostly VAB personnel carriers.

The minister stressed that the delivery of missiles is prompted by a personal request from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyi to bolster air defenses in the face of the recent russian missile strikes aiming at power supply infrastructure. The delivery of missiles is expected in summer 2024, whereas the vehicles will be arriving throughout 2024 till early 2025.

Read more: Five Scenarios For the Deployment of French Troops in Ukraine - Le Figaro
Aster30 missile launched from a SAMP/T
Aster30 missile launched from a SAMP/T / Illustrative photo credit: Eurosam

The armored vehicles from the aid package will bolster mobility of Ukrainian military units, and Aster 30 will add to Kyiv's crucial long-range defense capabilities against ballistic threats, such as russian Kh-47 Kinzhal, 3M22 Zircon missiles, and such.

Still, this provision does not introduce anything new. Particularly, the Aster 30 is the only missile interceptor of the SAMP/T system, so it was previously provided to Ukraine alongside the equipment. Possibly, Lecornu meant either of two or both options: a) France will replenish Ukraine's stock of missiles spent to repel threats; or b) Paris will increase the supply compared to last year. For a reminder, the first SAMP/T arrived in Ukraine in spring 2023.

The specifications of the Aster 30 missile: launch weight 250 kg, length 4.9 meters (~16 feet), and range in excess of 120 km against non-ballistic or 60 km against ballistic targets.

Worth noting, the French defense industry is currently working to speed up the production cycle of Aster missiles from 40 to 18 months, and that France itself in 2023 was calling a "mega project" its initiative to produce 700 Aster-family missiles together with Italy over the next few years.

As for VAB vehicles, those are nothing new to Ukrainians either. The new "hundreds" of vehicles will join several dozen units sent to Ukraine in summer 2022. The 4x4 wheeled personnel carrier has shown remarkable cross-country capability in Ukraine's weak soil conditions when used by air assault troops.

French-made VAB personnel carrier in service with the Ukrainian army, September 2022
French-made VAB personnel carrier in service with the Ukrainian army, September 2022 / Still frame credit: Air Assault Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Considering France has recently joined the so-called "armor coalition" in support of Ukraine, alongside the VABs, Paris is likely to send AMX-10RC combat vehicles, often called "wheeled tanks." Both VAB and AMX-10RC are being gradually decommissioned from the French military.

Illustrative photo: Ukrainian marines at trainingwith the AMX-10RC / Defense Express / France is Preparing Aster 30 Missiles and VAB Vehicles for Transfer to Ukraine
AMX-10RC infantry fighting vehicle with its 105mm gun was for some time considered a replacement for main battle tanks although practice shows they are better in fire support, not in frontal assault / Illustrative photo: Ukrainian marines at training with the AMX-10RC // Credit: 37th Marine Brigade
In general, Lecornu's statement about the planned transfer of several hundred armored vehicles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces fits perfectly into the framework of his previous announcement that France will hand all decommissioned weapons over to Ukraine. In a separate article, Defense Express elaborated on what it might actually mean and what the variety and quantity of supplies might be in this case.
Read more: Will France Really Be Giving All Decommissioned Weaponry to Ukraine, Including VAB APCs, Leclerc Tanks, Mirage Fighters?