French company Arquus partners with Ukraine to reinforce defense self-sufficiency


According to La Croix on September 28, 2023, Ukraine recently held a two-day defense industry exhibition in Kyiv on September 27th and 28th, 2023. The event aimed to attract foreign investments to enhance Ukraine's defense capabilities. A significant outcome was the French Arquus Defense's commitment to establish a repair workshop in Ukraine, primarily focusing on maintaining and refurbishing French-made Véhicules de l'Avant Blindés (VAB) armored vehicles supplied to Ukraine, with the goal of ensuring their long-term operational readiness.
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The French company Arquus will establish a repair workshop in Ukraine for the French-donated VAB 4x4 APCs (Picture sources: Maxkatre/Twitter and Wikimedia)


While the exact quantity of VABs delivered to Ukraine remains undisclosed, France has provided substantial quantities of these armored vehicles, alongside CAESAr 6x6 self-propelled howitzers and SCALP missiles, as part of a broader military aid package. This new announcement from Arquus Defense reflects Ukraine's broader strategy to strengthen its defense capabilities while reducing its reliance on external support.

This shift in Ukraine's defense strategy was prompted by Ukrainian Minister of Economy, Ioulia Svyrydenko, who emphasized the need to diversify sources of weaponry and reduce reliance on allies in March. Subsequently, Oleksandr Kamychine, formerly in charge of state-owned railways, was appointed to lead the Ministry of Strategic Industries. His mission was to retool former Soviet-era factories to produce modern weaponry in collaboration with Western manufacturers, even amid ongoing conflict.

French Minister of Defense Sébastien Lecornu acknowledged the persistent nature of the conflict. Ukraine is gradually shifting from a norm of equipment transfer to a greater emphasis on technology transfers as a key component of its defense strategy, as the country possesses substantial expertise inherited from its Soviet past, including major enterprises like the Antonov aircraft manufacturer, Ioujmach missile producer, and Motor Sitch turbine manufacturer, which require technology transfers to fully harness their potential.

Ukraine faces significant long-term requirements to maintain a secure distance from Russia following the cessation of hostilities. President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized this point on September 26th, expressing a desire for Ukraine to possess a new and powerful arsenal. He underscored the need to produce and build all the necessary infrastructure gradually to ensure security.

After approximately six months of strategic initiatives, there is tangible progress. The focus has shifted from procuring foreign military equipment to prioritizing domestic production and technological self-reliance.

In August 2023, Sweden announced its support for Ukraine's ambitions in domestic combat vehicle production. A declaration of intent was signed between Ukraine and Sweden, encompassing production, repair, and training related to the Swedish-made Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90) infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). This collaborative partnership seeks to localize the production and repair facilities for CV90 vehicles within Ukraine, further reducing Ukraine's reliance on foreign military equipment deliveries.

Rheinmetall, a key player in the global defense industry, plays a central role in Ukraine's defense industry transformation. The company's vision includes establishing a production facility in Ukraine to provide NATO-standard technology and manufacturing capabilities, reducing Ukraine's dependence on external sources for vital military equipment.

Rheinmetall's initiatives span various aspects of defense production, including the establishment of maintenance workshops for NATO military vehicles in Western Ukraine and the production of armored personnel carriers. The company also plans to supply Marder 1A3 IFVs and Leopard 2A4 tanks to the Ukrainian military, while exploring the possibility of leasing well-equipped Soviet-era tank factories in Ukraine.

Among the various vehicles under consideration for production, the advanced German KF-51 Panther tank stands out for its mobility, advanced ballistic protection, and cutting-edge weapon systems. Furthermore, Rheinmetall is exploring the production of the Ukrainian-designed T-84 Oplot tank, known for its reliability, firepower, and impact resistance.

In the context of the ongoing conflict, this shift towards domestic production and technological self-reliance carries substantial implications for Ukraine's military capabilities. By gradually decreasing its reliance on external sources for critical military equipment, this change of perspective not only ensures a more reliable supply of essential military hardware but also enhances its capacity to maintain, adapt, and upgrade its weaponry.

One of the immediate consequences of these initiatives is the potential for a more resilient and adaptable Ukrainian armed forces, as the country can maintain a higher level of readiness among its troops, reduce vulnerabilities related to supply chain disruptions, and promptly adjust its weaponry to address specific operational requirements. This can translate into improved combat effectiveness and a better ability to manage the challenges encountered on the battlefield.

Ukraine's move towards self-reliance in defense production could have long-term implications for its strategic position. As the conflict endures, the capability to independently manufacture and upgrade military equipment can enhance Ukraine's deterrence capabilities, potentially influencing the calculations of regional actors. It may also contribute to the country's post-conflict stability by reducing its reliance on external sources, fostering greater autonomy in defense decision-making, and facilitating a smoother transition to a peacetime footing.