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Europe reaffirmed, Monday, March 20, its military support for Ukraine in the war which opposes it to Russia by releasing an envelope of two billion euros of ammunition. Among them, shells made in France, near Bourges, in the Cher.
In Ukraine, 5,000 155mm shells are fired every day. Artillery ammunition is lacking. The Ukrainians demand a million shells from their allies. How to provide so much ammunition? Nexter, the only French factory manufacturing 155 mm shells, opened its doors to France Télévisions, on its site in La-Chapelle-Saint-Ursin (Cher). It manufactures on this site its ammunition at 4,000 euros each. Some stages are classified as “secret defense”. On average, 630 shells are manufactured each week, indicates the director of the factory, who explains that he has entered “a war economy”.
Recruit to produce more and faster
The slightest error during manufacture can prove fatal on the front. Today, a 155 mm shell can be delivered in six months. The factory wants to go down to three months. To produce more and faster, it must recruit and train technicians. Applicants must be psychologically strong. “We manufacture ammunition, it has a purpose, we all know it. We have people who are not ready to work for this kind of field”explains the chemical product line manager.
Beyond the issues of productivity, the French authorities want to repatriate all the components of a shell to the territory, in particular the powder that allows them to be fired. For 15 years, France has been getting supplies from Sweden. From 2024, the powder will be produced in the Dordogne. The factory is organizing to increase production rates, without knowing how long the war in Ukraine will last. “It’s an economic risk, we will manufacture products that we will have in stock. (…) For me, it’s not a story of money, it’s a choice of national strategy”comments the director.