© Reuters. The logo of Arquus, a unit of Volvo AB, is pictured at the production plant in Limoges, France, April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
By Clotaire Achi
LIMOGES, France (Reuters) – French armoured truck maker Arquus, specialised in manufacturing high-tech off-road military vehicles, has gone back to producing more low-tech undercarriages for howitzers as the ground war in Ukraine boosts demand for artillery.
Despite an industry trend towards more high-tech weaponry like drones and autonomous missiles, traditional battlefield equipment like tanks and howitzers such as France’s Caesar canons and U.S.-made HIMARS have helped bend the trajectory of the war in Ukraine.
France in January announced it would send another 12 Ceasar howitzers – manufactured by French group Nexter – to Ukraine, on top of the 18 it had previously shipped, boosting demand for the Arquus-made undercarriages.
Arquus Chief Executive Emmanuel Levacher told Reuters that the firm had stopped producing the undercarriages because until recently there was no more demand. But that changed as French army stocks need to be filled up again.
“There could be even higher demand, particularly for export, which motivated us to relaunch production here in Limoges,” he said.
Arquus -formerly known as Renault (EPA:RENA) Trucks Defense and now owned by Volvo – produces a range of light military vehicles, including the Scarabee combat truck for urban warfare and its VLRA logistics and troop carriers.
“We can feel an acceleration of needs in Europe because of the crisis and the war in Ukraine, and we are in touch with the countries in the region and Ukraine directly,” Levacher said.
Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu has asked French military equipment makers to scale up capacities to “war-time mode” and has pledged to repatriate some previously outsourced activities.
Western allies have been supplying Kyiv with arms and other equipment since Russia invaded its neighbour, depleting their own inventories along the way.
Increased shipments have sparked a boom for weapons producers and governments from Paris to Washington keep urging them to ramp up production as inventory shortages in many NATO armies have added to current headaches.