French tanks could reach Ukraine army next week

France has already sent heavy artillery and air defence missiles to help Ukrainians fight Russia

French Army AMX-10 tanks such as these are being sent to Ukraine. AP
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French armoured vehicles could arrive in Ukraine as early as next week, France’s Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Sunday.

The AMX-10 is a wheeled armoured vehicle with a powerful gun, and is sometimes described as a light tank. The move comes more than a month after Paris said it would send about 30 of the vehicles as part of a new aid package, having already sent anti-aircraft weapons and mobile artillery systems.

But the AMX-10, being lightly armoured, falls short of the kind of vehicles Ukraine insists it needs to win the conflict with Russia.

Kyiv has called for more tracked, heavily armoured tanks, sometimes called main battle tanks, including further supplies of British Challenger 2s, US M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2s. Around 100 older, but still capable Leopard 1 tanks have been donated by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, which could bring Nato-designed tanks in Ukraine to nearly 200 vehicles.

Analysts say these numbers are insufficient to turn the tide on the battlefield, but could help blunt an expected Russian offensive.

Ukraine is thought to have about 400 domestically produced T-64BM tanks and 300 T-80s, in addition to operating about 1,000 captured Russian tanks. In addition to these captured and domestically made Russian tanks, Poland, Morocco and the Czech Republic have also donated scores of Russian-designed T-72 tanks, some of which have been upgraded.

Russia is thought to have about 1,800 tanks available for service, having lost about 1,000 of its operational fleet, according to a recent estimate by the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Due to the high intensity of combat along the front lines, those numbers can change rapidly.

The US has also pledged more than 100 Bradly Fighting Vehicles, which are designed to carry troops into battle but can be fitted with anti-tank missiles, and have a cannon powerful enough to destroy lightly armoured vehicles.

The first vehicles will be sent to Ukraine "by the end of next week", Mr Lecornu told Le Parisien newspaper's Sunday edition.

Training of Ukrainian crews on the AMX-10 was now "nearly complete", he said.

Overall training of Ukrainian military was "intensifying", he added, both in France and Poland, a fellow Nato member.

Starting next month, 600 Ukrainian troops will undergo training every month, he said.

Asked about possible fighter aircraft deliveries to Ukraine, an urgent request by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the defence minister said the question was "not taboo".

But he said such military aid posed complex "logistical and practical questions".

Because of slow European and US action on tank deliveries, delayed by German reluctance to supply Leopard 2s or allow allied operators to send them, the swift delivery of the AMX-10s will likely be welcomed by Kyiv.

Larger main battle tanks are not expected to make an appearance on the front line until April at the earliest.

Updated: February 19, 2023, 5:42 PM