French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled plans to provide training for Ukrainian pilots amid efforts to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities ahead of a potential counter-offensive.
During an interview with French TV channel TF1 held a day after his discussions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Macron emphasized France’s commitment to assisting Ukraine in its efforts to resist aggression and eventually negotiate a lasting peace.
“France’s strategy is simple, to help Ukraine to resist, to organize, when it chooses, a counter-offensive in order to be able to bring everyone back to the negotiating table, under conditions that it will have chosen, and to build a lasting peace” Macron explained, recalling that France was the first “to deliver light tanks [a number of AMX-10 RC were pledged in February 2023 – ed. note].”
Macron continued by saying that France had decided to supply new ammunition and collaborate with Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country, providing support in repairing vehicles and weapons.
Among the promised ammunition, France’s president mentioned long-range missiles. On May 11, 2023, the United Kingdom revealed having supplied Storm Shadow long-range missiles. Given that the French military also employs these weapons (known as the SCALP-EG in France), it is plausible that they could be the ones intended for delivery to Ukraine.
The Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG cruise missile is a British-French weapon developed in the 1990s by Matra and British Aerospace and is now manufactured by the European missile maker MBDA.
Macron revealed that he had “opened the door to train pilots” for Ukraine, although he did not offer further specifics. Macron stressed that training could commence immediately, potentially involving the United States and European countries that are prepared to participate.
Asked whether France would deliver fighter jets, Macron detailed the three criteria under which the delivery of a new platform to Ukraine is considered:
- The platform must be primarily defensive to avoid an escalation of the conflict
- The platform must be relevant to the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces
- The delivery must not weaken the defense capabilities of France
On March 22, 2023, the daily newspaper Le Figaro stated that around 30 Ukrainian air crewmembers were receiving accelerated training to operate Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000 fighters. However, the claims were denied by the French Ministry of Armed Forces.
“We are indeed training Ukrainian aircrews in France, particularly in air defense, and survival in the event that their aircraft is shot down,” the Ministry clarified. “For operational and safety reasons for both the trainers and trainees, we cannot provide any further information.”