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UK government, BAE Systems sign agreements to repair equipment in Ukraine

by Elsa Court April 10, 2024 3:04 PM 3 min read
Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin, and U.K. Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands sign the agreement in Kyiv. (UK Embassy Kyiv)
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The British government and BAE Systems, the U.K.'s largest arms company, announced on April 10 that they had signed agreements to support Ukraine's defense industry.

Ukraine aims to further invest in domestic arms production amid growing uncertainty about the supply of weapons from partners abroad.  

The U.K. government signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government to encourage defense industry cooperation and support joint projects between British and Ukrainian companies.

The signing took place in Kyiv during the U.K's largest-ever trade mission to Ukraine. A delegation of 29 British defense companies was present at the signing, together with representatives from 70 Ukrainian defense companies.

During the trade mission, BAE Systems signed an agreement with the U.K. government for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul services in Ukraine of the L119 light gun, a 105 mm howitzer.

The agreement provides a framework for other BAE-produced weapons to be repaired and maintained in Ukraine, Gabby Costigan, BAE Systems' group managing director for business development, told reporters in Kyiv.

As well as the L119, the Ukrainian Armed Forces currently use 17 different types of weapons and equipment made by BAE Systems, such as Challenger tanks and Bradley armored vehicles.

"Our ambition is that in the future, we will be able to repair as much of that capability here in the country," Costigan said.

The contract "will make a difference to the speed with which we are able to keep Ukrainian military equipment available for the fight," the U.K.'s National Armaments Director Andy Start said.

BAE Systems already opened an office in Ukraine in August 2023 to help launch the domestic production of weapons like the L119 in partnership with Ukrainian manufacturers.

The British company's plans to repair, and ultimately produce weapons in Ukraine follow German company Rheinmetall, which announced in 2023 that it plans to repair and build armored vehicles in Ukraine jointly with Ukrainian Defense Industry (Ukroboronprom).

U.K. and Ukraine sign a new agreement

U.K. Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands signed the U.K.-Ukraine agreement with Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin in Kyiv.

The agreement follows the bilateral long-term security agreement signed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Volodymyr Zelensky in January, based on a pledge made by the Group of Seven (G7) in July 2023 to provide long-term support to Ukraine.

Defense industry cooperation was one of the themes mentioned in the text of the security agreement between the U.K. and Ukraine.

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The signing of the new agreement "will allow the expansion of cooperation and development of the defense industry for Great Britain and Ukraine," paving the way for Ukraine "to become a full-fledged member of NATO and the European family," Kamyshin said.

Kamyshin told the Kyiv Independent in February that Ukraine's defense industry is comprised of 500 enterprises dedicated to designing, repairing, manufacturing, and maintaining military equipment.

Around 100 of the enterprises are state-owned, 400 are private, and about 300,000 Ukrainians are engaged in the work, Kamyshin said.

U.K. support to Ukraine

The U.K. has been "at the forefront of providing military and non-military assistance to Ukraine, not just over the last two years but also over the last 10 years since the illegal occupation of Crimea," Hands told reporters.

This new agreement will benefit Ukraine not just on the battlefield, but also its economy, Hands said.

"Our trade missions, alongside this signing, are testament to the UK’s integral role in boosting Ukraine’s war-time economy and facilitating their long-term recovery," Hands said.

The U.K. has provided almost 12 billion pounds ($15 billion) worth of support to Ukraine, primarily by providing existing defense equipment from its own inventory and buying supplies from the domestic defense industry.

The British government has also funded the training and equipping of 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers.  

"We now recognize we need to step up to partnering with the Ukrainian defense industry to position Ukraine's defense industry to be better able to respond at speed and to support the Ukrainian economy, and to create long-lasting strategic partnerships," Start said.

"Ukraine is now at the bleeding edge of technology in a whole series of areas," Start said.

"There is an opportunity for Ukraine to share that experience with the world-class capability of the U.K. defense industry and to create a stronger partnership."

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