By Pierre Tran
Paris – Ukraine will be among the exhibitors at the Eurosatory trade show for land weapons, with the east European nation showing its capability to build and export armaments, Charles Beaudouin, chief executive of the show organizer Coges Events, said May 25.
The Ukrainian stand will present a “remarkable” capability to produce and sell a range of weapons in foreign markets, he told a press conference on the exhibition, which will run June 12-17. The collapse of the USSR left a large Ukrainian arms industry under Kyiv’s control.
Progress, a state-owned arms trading company, will appear on the Ukraine national stand, along with its parent company Ukrspecexport, the ministry of defense, and Practika, a vehicle manufacturer, Coges information shows.
Progress is a “specialized foreign trade” company formed in 1990, and handles foreign arms sales, including heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers, Antonov transport aircraft, patrol boats and special forces vessels, radar, and communications, the corporate website said. The company is active in Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Practika, set up in 1993, builds light armored and tactical vehicles, including mine clearing and mine resistant vehicles. The product line ranges from trucks and anti-mine diggers to armor protection, remote gun turrets, and bullet proof glass.
Ukraine has also been developing its own drones, Beaudouin said.
Ukraine’s past as being part of the former Soviet Union can be seen in the manufacture in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, of the T-74 heavy tank, he said.
Ukrainian forces secured Kharkiv, the second-largest city, around mid-May and their counter-attack pushed Russian troops back to the border with Russia.
Kharkiv has a special place in tank history, as the T-74 traces its origins back to design and building in that city of the T-34, critical in defeating invading Nazi forces in the battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle, in 1943.
Meanwhile, there is fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, with Russian forces using intense artillery fire to seize direct control of the Donbas region. Sievierodonetsk is a key target for Moscow, with the advance in the Russian assault seen in mortar rounds fired from the outskirts of the industrial city, after the previous use of longer range artillery.
The neighbouring city of Lysychansk, across the river Siverskyi Donets, is also under fierce attack, with Russian forces close to encircling the two besieged cities, seeking to hold out.
Russian artillery is hammering some 40 towns in the Donbas region, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Wednesday Russian troops outnumbered Ukrainian forces, and called on allies to send more weapons.
Ukraine Is Welcome
Beaudouin made it clear the Ukraine stand was welcome at the show, while the show organizer turned away three Russian companies. Russian nationals as private citizens were allowed into the show.
There was “probably” a link between a rise in exhibitors at the show and the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said, although it was hard to say there was a “straight line” effect. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the three Baltic states have shown great interest in the show.
There will be only four Chinese companies at the show this year, he said, reflecting the drop in Asian exhibitors due to the Covid crisis. Western governments imposed sanctions against arms sales to China in the wake of the killing of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen square, Beijing, in1989.
The show was taking place at a time of conflict between nations in Europe, a new world order, and questions over world trade, Beaudouin said. Among the themes at the exhibition were climate change, cyber security threat, and a digital “explosion,” with anti-electronic jamming, and how to jam enemy systems. Other themes include connectivity of systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The last day of the show seeks to boost staff recruitment, with students welcome to meet companies.
The exhibition includes medical assistance, with the great need in high intensity combat seen with the 60-100 Ukrainian troops killed a day and high casualties, he said.
Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked May 25 his French counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu, for receiving Ukrainian war wounded in French military hospitals, and pointed up the Ukrainian forces’ significant needs in the face of Russian offensives, with the prospect of the conflict dragging on.
Need for Anti-Drone Weapons
There is a capability gap with an “almost total absence” of anti-drone measures, Beaudouin said.
In anti-drone systems, the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office awarded an order worth €33 million ($35 million) to a consortium led by CS group and Thales for the Parade countermeasures program, the companies said respectively May 2 and April 29.
The total Parade budget is €350 million over 11 years, for delivery of a modular, multi-mission system to protect sensitive sites against micro- and mini-drones. There is an initial order for six countermeasure systems, with first delivery within a year of program launch. The partners included CerbAir, Exavision, MC2 Technologies, and a Dutch company, Robin.
New exhibitors include Egypt, Mexico, Ivory Coast and Luxembourg.
Beaudouin is a former army general who played a key role in drawing up the Scorpion modernization program, which is delivering the Jaguar combat and reconnaissance vehicle and Griffon multirole troop carrier.
Last year “was not an easy year” for exports, said Marc Darmon, chairman of Gicat, the trade association for land weapons, and the parent company of Coges.
There were financial problems stemming from commercial banks reluctant to back arms export deals, due to compliance with guidelines on social responsibility.
There was something of “schizophrenia,” he said, pointing to what he saw as highly contradictory European Union support for its European Defense Fund and criticism of
arms companies under environmental, social and governance criteria.
Arms exports were vital to support the French defense industrial base, he said, with a target of exports accounting for half of total annual sales. The Gicat 2021 report shows exports fell to 40 percent in 2020, compared to 51 percent in 2019 and 50 percent in 2018.
There was risk if exports fell this year and 2023, Darmon said.
The perceived need for foreign arms sales pointed up the importance of Eurosatory and the French national pavilion at other trade shows around the world, he said, and there was need for French and European support for the defense industrial base.
The European Defense Fund has selected 26 large projects to support research and technology, with funding of €158 million, he said.
Gicat members employ 47,500 staff directly and indirectly, distributed around the country, with 35 pct – the highest proportion – employed in the Paris region.
The land weapons sector had shown adaptability and resilience to get through the Covid health crisis in 2020 and 2021, he said, meeting program deliveries, while talking to the services, the DGA, and other companies.
The Covid crisis forced the closing of the 2020 Eurosatory show.
Darmon is also Thales executive vice president of secure communications and information systems.