Western Shell Manufacturers Step into Top Gear - Again

Renewed impetus to ammunition manufacturing inspires military support for Ukraine.

Western Shell Manufacturers Step into Top Gear - Again

Once the dust had settled on Russia’s 2022 push to Kyiv, western governments immediately began pledging support in terms of ammunition and financial aid.

Fast forward a year or two and the enthusiasm had dried up as quickly as the deep storage supplies of soon-expiring shells.

Today, as the war drags along in its third year, Ukraine’s allies are renewing their promises of military support by boosting the production of much needed artillery shells.

The news began in America, where Gen. James Mingus, the vice chief of staff announced that the US Army was on course to triple its monthly production of 155mm shells. “We’ll be at 100,000 rounds by next summer,” he added.

To put that into perspective, a February report by the Kyiv Independent newspaper, quoted Rustem Umerov, the Ukrainian Defence Minister stating that Ukrainian forces were firing around 2,000 shells per day, in comparison to Russia’s 6,000 shells per day (60,000 and 180,000 per month respectively).

A 155mm artillery round cost roughly $3,000 each, although Ukraine uses a mix of NATO-suitable ammo, including 105mm shells.

Much of the delay was due to the politics of having the aid budget to Ukraine approved by American politicians with the production boost dependent on a $3.1 billion investment from Capitol Hill. Now approved, the funds have been used in projects such as a shell production facility in Texas which is owned by General Dynamics, a major supplier to the army. This expansion, according to company CEO Phebe Novakovic, “increased the throughput and the productivity of the number of shells by 83 percent.”  Other facilities in Arkansas and Kansas have also received US government support for upgrading.

With the lid now off the spending limits, production is in full flow, with the 100,000 shells per month total representing a six-fold increase from when the war began and shows that the slow move to get arms manufacturing meeting demand is now gaining steam.

The news from America was quickly followed by a pledge from Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, to supply over a million artillery shells before the end of the year.

This was an announcement which came alongside news of plans to ease the logistics of getting artillery shells to the frontline by investing in ammunition production facilities directly in Ukraine.

“We produce in Europe, but we should be able to produce in [Ukrainian] territory,” said Borrell, who is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It is a logical step, he explained, “in order to save costs, to reduce delivery times and be closer to [Ukrainian] needs.”

It is a financial and logistical thrust that cannot come too soon for Ukrainian soldiers, as currently, according to Kusti Salm, the Estonian Defence Ministry’s top civil servant, any rounds ordered today from European arms manufacturers will take at least a year to get to Ukraine.

The challenge of supplying Ukraine's armed forces has proven to be a difficult one, as Moscow has consistently targeted the country’s industrial capabilities as well as losing much of its industrial heartland in Donetsk and Luhansk regions - which are now occupied by Russia.

“Our goal is to find extra funding for procuring from Ukrainian defence industry for Ukrainian armed forces,” explains Oleksandr Kamyshin, the Ukrainian Minister for Strategic Industries. “That’s the fastest way we can help the frontline.”

Like so many other parts of war, when it comes to the matter of ammunition production, speed is essential.

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