In September 2023, a video was shared which appeared to show a French FAMAS rife in Ukraine. The video featured a select-fire FAMAS being fired at a range by a member of the Ukrainian armed forces. This video raised the question ‘has France provided FAMAS to Ukraine?’ It certainly would not be a surprise if France had provided the rifles. Since the adoption of the HK416F in 2016, France has since provided surplus FAMAS to several friendly nations including Suriname.

The FAMAS has been the French military’s primary service rifle since its introduction in 1979. Developed at the Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS), it uses a lever-delayed blowback action and was one of the first bullpup rifles adopted by a major military. It will continue in French service to at least 2028 as it is replaced by the HK416F.

The video was posted on TikTok on 13 September, the rifle featured was a FAMAS F1 with the Valorisé upgrade, which adds Picatinny mounting rails. The video, filmed at a range, features a combatant who has lost his left hand and appears to have a rank slide indicating he’s a captain.

It wasn’t until 14 December, that there was another sighting of FAMAS in theatre. A member of the 54th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion (ORB)’s mortar platoon shared a photograph of himself with FAMAS F1 Valorisé. The photograph also featured an issue of six FAMAS magazines and a blank ammunition magazine for use firing some types of rifle grenades.

A photo of the FAMAS as issued to Ukrainian forces, via member of 54th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion (via social media)

Speaking to the combatant about the FAMAS he explained why he likes the rifle saying that he finds it light, comfortable, easy to aim and appreciates the three round burst function as it prevents unintentionally dumping the whole mag in stressful situations. He, however, dislikes the limited size of the rifle’s 25 round magazine and that it only takes proprietary FAMAS magazines making it impossible to gather magazines from other combatants during combat. The rifles were also issued without user manuals but he has since found a PDF copy. When I spoke to him he noted that two out of his six man unit were currently using the FAMAS, he was given the option to choose a rifle from his unit’s armoury and said others favoured the AK or Ukrainian Malyuk/Vulcan bullpup.

Some very intriguing footage from #Ukraine featuring a French FAMAS with Valorisé upgrade (Picatinny rails added & position/style of the bipod altered). First such sighting of a FAMAS. France does have stocks to spare now the HK416F is entering service.#SALW #UkraineRussiaWar️

— Historical Firearms | Matthew Moss (@historicfirearm) September 13, 2023

Some Ukrainian troops will be familiar with the FAMAS if they completed training in France. Numerous photos and videos show Ukrainian troops using the French rifles while training. France planned to train as many as 7,000 Ukrainian troops in 2023.

Table published by the French government showing weapons and kit transferred to Ukraine, including FAMAS rifles (French Govt.)

In December 2023, the French Assemblée Nationale published a document which outlined the equipment, but not quantities, provided to Ukraine by France. Originally written in March 2023, it was discussed by the Committee on National Defense and the Armed Forces in early November 2023. It confirms the provision of both FAMAS, various calibres of machine gun and precision rifles.

The member of the 54th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion continued to use his FAMAS in the field sharing numerous photographs with it between January and May 2024. He has removed the rifle’s integrated bipod legs and mounted a Holosun 510 series reflex sight.

A FAMAS captured by Russian forces (via social media)

Intriguingly, on 25 January 2024, a Russian telegram channel shared photographs of a captured FAMAS F1 with the Valorisé upgrade kit. The rifle is seen fitted with an Aimpoint CompM5. The post gave no further information on where or when the rifle was captured.

On the 1 February a member of Ukraine’s 128th Mountain Assault Brigade shared a photograph of himself and another combatant holding an F1 Valorise equipped with an ACOG. The same rifle appeared in a short range video posted a week later. The rifle has its integrated bipod deployed and is being firing in the fully automatic mode. The combatant does not appear to be using the rifle in the field.

A member of the Ukrainian armed forces with FAMAS, c.March 2024 (via social media)

On 7 March, a member of the 67th Mechanised Brigade shared a photograph of a combatant, described as a member of ‘the intelligence battalions’, holding a FAMAS. While a member of the 71st Jaeger Brigade shared several photographs of himself equipped with a FAMAS, sharing the first at the end of March and the second in early April.

On 4 March, the French government released an updated document listing the types and quantities of some of the equipment provided to Ukraine. The document states that 1,000 ‘FAMAS’ have been provided between 1 March, 2022 and 1 May, 2024.

A table from a French government report on aid to Ukraine stating 1,000 FAMAS had been provided (French Govt.)

While the issue of the rifle only being able to use steel cased ammunition is largely a myth, the original F1 does have a 1 in 12 twist rate barrel meaning that it is optimised for 55gr M193-type 5.56x45mm ammunition rather than 62gr SS109 or M855. Sources suggest the F1 Valorisé has a new 1 in 9 barrel which if true would enable it to use ammunition with heavier projectiles with no issues. It seems the only limiting factor on the F1’s in Ukraine is the weapon’s use of a proprietary 25-round magazine rather from a NATO standard 30-round magazine. As such combatants in Ukraine who find themselves with a F1 Valorisé will be confined to using magazines issued with the weapon. In a hostile environment where STANAG pattern magazines are most prevalent 5.56x45mm magazines this is a significant logistical drawback.

As the number of FAMAS provided is relatively small sightings of the French rifles in theatre are relatively rare. Despite this from the limited sample we have available the rifle appears to be in the inventory of at least two or three brigades. It appears likely that they aren’t being issued to entire units and instead they are currently held by unit armouries where individuals can select them. In terms of other small arms provided by France; in the past French 7.62x51mm AANF1 and FN MAG machine guns were provided with armoured vehicles and most recently FR F2 sniper rifles have also surfaced in Ukraine.

Special thanks to Weapons Illustrated for his help sourcing imagery and also to Dragonists Society.

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