When Iranian suicide drones slammed into Ukrainian cities, the new reality dawned on Western Europe: Ukraine needs an effective anti-aircraft shield to protect its people from these terror attacks.
Paris, criticised over its meagre military support for Kyiv, has pledged its help. On October 12, Emmanuel Macron announced the delivery of “radars, anti-aircraft systems and missiles to protect Ukrainians from attacks, especially drone attacks.”
After getting to grips with ‘Caesar’ self-propelled howitzers, Ukrainian soldiers will now have to learn how to handle ‘Crotales’, French-made air-defence missile batteries. Paris has committed to supplying them to Ukraine within two months. Although the quantity was not specified, it will be limited: the French army itself has only twelve Crotales.
Though helpful in the war, they will have very limited impact on the drone battle, according to military expert Vincent Tourret. “The Crotales are rather designed to shoot down aircraft or missiles. They are more likely to be used to hit Russian Sukhoï helicopters or intercept cruise missiles in the terminal phase. It would not be very cost-effective to use them against drones. With their range of only four kilometres, the German Gepard guns would be more effective.”
By helping Ukraine, Paris also wants to support its own arms industry. It has set up a fund of 100 million euros, “from which Ukrainians can buy whatever they want, provided that the supplier is French,” said Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu.
Kyiv has reportedly begun using the fund to buy motorised pontoon bridges to help cross rivers. However, this solution has one important limitation: production time. Unlike selecting them from army stocks, the production process is lengthy. On average, it takes a year from order to delivery of a 155-mm shell.