The use of artillery in the Ukraine war is depleting Western ammunition stocks
Washington (AFP) – Western governments are mobilizing arms manufacturers to ramp up production and replenish drastically diminished stocks by supplying Ukraine for the six-month-old battle against Russia’s invasion.
This week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a meeting of senior national arms managers from allied countries to develop long-term plans to supply Ukraine and rebuild its arms reserves.
“They will discuss how our defense industrial bases can provide Ukraine’s future forces with the best capabilities they need,” he told a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany of the Ukraine Contact Group, which currently supports the war effort by 50 countries.
On Friday, the Pentagon’s head of arms acquisitions, Bill LaPalante, said the meeting would take place in Brussels on September 28.
The goal is to determine “how we can continue to work together to increase production of key capabilities, solve supply chain issues, and increase the interoperability and interoperability of our systems,” Lapalante told reporters at the Pentagon.
– Billions more weapons –
Not all NATO countries have the same weapons, but theirs are compatible. So ammunition manufactured in one country can be used in NATO by another country.
At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian army mostly used weapons and ammunition corresponding to Russian standards. But within a few months, these were exhausted—particularly in the crucial artillery and missile systems—and he became dependent on the Western Allies with standard NATO weapons.
But this, in turn, led to the withdrawal of large amounts of ammunition that the Allies kept for their own defense.
Rebuilding those supplies is critical now.
In July, the European Union announced €500 million for joint procurement over the next two years to replenish arms provided to Kyiv.
The priority is more anti-armor and anti-aircraft missile systems, 155 mm artillery pieces and ammunition.
European Commissioner Terry Breton said at the time that EU countries “relyed on their stocks of ammunition, light and heavy artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank defense systems and even armored vehicles and tanks”.
“This has created a realistic weakness that now needs to be addressed urgently,” he warned.
The United States, Ukraine’s main defense supplier since the war began, has pledged $15.2 billion in arms, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery and NATO-compatible ammunition.
– increase production –
The Pentagon supplied about 800,000 rounds of 155mm artillery to Ukraine, while the US has only one factory that makes them, the General Dynamics plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania that produces just 14,000 rounds a month.
“We have plans … to have increases eventually reaching 36,000 per month in about three years,” Lapalante said.
But that could take annual production to just over half of what Washington provided the Ukrainians in less than six months.
The Pentagon wants allies to ramp up their production lines to help replenish stocks.
The U.S. Army recently announced a slew of new contracts with arms manufacturers inside and outside the United States to do just that.
It includes $364 million for 250,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition from multiple manufacturers, $624 million for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, $324 million for Javelin anti-tank missiles, and millions more for weapons systems, ammunition and defense supplies.
Dave Butler, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the decision is guided by but not specifically defined by US manufacturing capabilities.
“Ukraine’s needs for a specific weapon are the ultimate driving factor,” he said.