UK officials gauge long-term defense business ties with Ukraine

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LONDON — Britain has mounted its first defense trade mission to Ukraine as the government here steps up efforts to secure military business with Kyiv.

The mission saw companies including BAE Systems, Babcock, Thales, KBR and AMS join the British government-led trip to the Ukrainian capital Dec. 13-14.

The British Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the visit will result in additional defense trade missions in 2024.

“The U.K. government and U.K. industry will continue to work hand-in-glove with our Ukrainian allies, seizing opportunities for collaboration and bolstering our defense industries,” Defense Procurement Minister James Cartlidge was quoted as saying.

The trade mission brought together U.K. and Ukrainian government officials along with U.K. and Ukrainian industry executives to discuss opportunities for long-term cooperation.

The industry push comes on the back of weapons support from London that has been growing for months. Fellow European nations are similarly seeking to marry their military support with business growth strategies in the war-torn country, and national heavyweights like Rheinmetall and Thales have been among those pursuing deals with Kyiv.

Initially, those opportunities are principally for the support of the sometimes aging weapons that have poured into Ukraine from Western governments since the Russian invasion started last year. But new weapons system will likely be included too.

BAE announced in August it was setting up an office in Kyiv and looking at the possibility of building and supporting its L119 light gun locally.

Following the trade mission the company went further, announcing it had signed a teaming agreement with support company AMS Integrated Solutions to pursue opportunities maintaining and repairing BAE-built artillery systems in the country.

No mention was made of the type of platforms likely to be involved in the proposal, but the British have donated AS90 155mm tracked howitzers and L119 105mm guns to the Ukrainian military.

The proposal would see AMS use existing maintenance centers in Ukraine, where the company employs local engineers.

AMS already has an agreement with the U.K. MoD to repair platforms in use in Ukraine and has established facilities in country to carry out the work.

Babcock has also set up a local office and last week announced it had been awarded a three-year contract by the Ukrainian MoD to support and maintain two mine countermeasures vessels following their transfer from the U.K. Royal Navy.

The British contractor activities in Ukraine predate the invasion with an agreement involving the two governments and Babcock enhancing Kyiv’s maritime capabilities.

Earlier this year the company secured a £50 million ($63 million), 12-month deal to support operations of Challenger 2 main battle tanks and other armored vehicles donated to Ukrainian forces.

The MoD statement announcing the trade mission also said Thales had signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukrainian unmanned aerial systems business Aerodrone, which involves engineers from the French company’s Northern Ireland operation participating in an unspecified project.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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