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Ukraine is eating through a key artillery shell, but the US Army has a plan to make hundreds of thousands more each year

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A Ukrainian serviceman of the 57th Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorised Infantry Brigade fires a 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at a position near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine July 5, 2023.

REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova

Ukraine has expended huge amounts of ammunition while fighting the Russians on the battlefield.
The high rate of fire has strained US stockpiles of 155 mm artillery shells that it’s sent to Kyiv.
But the Army has a plan to boost munitions production from 24,000 to over 80,000 a month. 

Ukrainian forces are burning through a critical artillery shell in their fight against Russian troops, straining the stockpiles of Kyiv’s Western military backers — including the US and its NATO allies.

To ease this burden, Washington is ramping up production of conventional 155 millimeter munitions and plans to make hundreds of thousands more of them each year as part of a multi-pronged effort to modernize and boost its defense industrial base, a top US Army official said this week. 

A prominent aspect of Russia’s 17-month-long war in Ukraine has been the intense and bloody artillery duel between the two sides, and Kyiv’s troops have been expending ammunition at a very high rate, both on defense and during their ongoing counteroffensive. This relentless exchange of firepower, however, is draining Ukraine’s inventory and has its allies concerned for their own arsenals. 

The Biden administration has even been forced to explore alternative and temporary solutions to ensure that Ukraine has sufficient ammunition to conduct offensive operations and also protect its own supply of ammunition, like the decision to provide Kyiv with deadly — and controversial — cluster munitions last month. White House and Pentagon officials said at the time that outfitting the Ukrainian military with this kind of weaponry will help alleviate the stress caused by its dwindling stockpiles.

But there’s a more long-term effort to replenish munitions in the works — not just for Ukraine, but also for the US and its allies. 

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, July 14, 2022.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

Right now, the US is manufacturing up to 24,000 155 mm shells a month, already a higher figure than before the war, and soon looks to increase that figure to 28,000 a month, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Douglas Bush told reporters on Monday. The goal is to then expand to over 80,000 shells a month over the course of the next year. That would be a huge jump from current levels of production, but the military expects to meet this target. 

“That ramp up is really about to kick in, and we look forward to working with industry as we make that happen,” Bush said. “We made multiple investments there in multiple facilities, so we’re working with a variety of industry partners on that.”

Beefing up inventory is not without its challenges, though. The US is having to establish new manufacturing lines to build the actual shells, invest in the capacity to pack the shells with explosives so they’re functional, and bring in additional production — at home or overseas — for the charges that go behind the shell and propel them from heavy artillery pieces like howitzers. 

“All of those things do have to come together, so there are always risks in that,” Bush said, adding that the US is getting the resources and contracts and working closely with industry partners to knock down any roadblocks. 

In any conflict, critical resources like artillery ammunition may be in high demand, Bush said.

He noted that while it’s important to ramp up production of 155 mm rounds primarily to support Ukraine and replenish domestic stockpiles, the US is also expecting increased demands from allied countries who want a piece of the pie — which the Army expects will eventually be over one million shells a year — to ensure they are able to adequately defend themselves. 

A gun crewmember loads the M777 howitzer to aim artillery fire onto Russian positions near the occupied Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on July 13, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Photo by Roman Chop/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

“Between supporting Ukraine, replenishing ourselves, and supporting other countries — allies, we expect to use that capacity,” he said. “That’s the overall reason we’re doing it.”

The US has already committed over $43 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion last year, according to Pentagon data. That includes more than 2 million 155 mm artillery rounds and nearly 200 howitzers that can be used to fire these munitions. 

American officials have said that Ukrainian soldiers are firing thousands of artillery rounds a day on the battlefield, and complaints from the Russian side indicate that they have been able to inflict serious damage on some front-line Russian positions.

Kyiv’s troops have been complementing this capability with other high-profile weapons from the US — like air-defense systems, rocket artillery, anti-tank missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and armored vehicles — to hinder Russian operations, push Moscow’s forces back, and even make territorial gains in the eastern and southern occupied regions.  

“Our equipment is working. Wars are complicated endeavors — they rise and fall based on many factors,” Bush said. “American equipment that’s getting to Ukraine is highly effective in combat, and that doesn’t just happen. That’s a result of decades of work by thousands of people to make sure our equipment’s tested well and also that our industry partners produce it critically at a high level of quality.”

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A Ukrainian serviceman of the 57th Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorised Infantry Brigade fires a 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at a position near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine July 5, 2023.

REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova

Ukraine has expended huge amounts of ammunition while fighting the Russians on the battlefield.
The high rate of fire has strained US stockpiles of 155 mm artillery shells that it’s sent to Kyiv.
But the Army has a plan to boost munitions production from 24,000 to over 80,000 a month. 

Ukrainian forces are burning through a critical artillery shell in their fight against Russian troops, straining the stockpiles of Kyiv’s Western military backers — including the US and its NATO allies.

To ease this burden, Washington is ramping up production of conventional 155 millimeter munitions and plans to make hundreds of thousands more of them each year as part of a multi-pronged effort to modernize and boost its defense industrial base, a top US Army official said this week. 

A prominent aspect of Russia’s 17-month-long war in Ukraine has been the intense and bloody artillery duel between the two sides, and Kyiv’s troops have been expending ammunition at a very high rate, both on defense and during their ongoing counteroffensive. This relentless exchange of firepower, however, is draining Ukraine’s inventory and has its allies concerned for their own arsenals. 

The Biden administration has even been forced to explore alternative and temporary solutions to ensure that Ukraine has sufficient ammunition to conduct offensive operations and also protect its own supply of ammunition, like the decision to provide Kyiv with deadly — and controversial — cluster munitions last month. White House and Pentagon officials said at the time that outfitting the Ukrainian military with this kind of weaponry will help alleviate the stress caused by its dwindling stockpiles.

But there’s a more long-term effort to replenish munitions in the works — not just for Ukraine, but also for the US and its allies. 

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, July 14, 2022.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

Right now, the US is manufacturing up to 24,000 155 mm shells a month, already a higher figure than before the war, and soon looks to increase that figure to 28,000 a month, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Douglas Bush told reporters on Monday. The goal is to then expand to over 80,000 shells a month over the course of the next year. That would be a huge jump from current levels of production, but the military expects to meet this target. 

“That ramp up is really about to kick in, and we look forward to working with industry as we make that happen,” Bush said. “We made multiple investments there in multiple facilities, so we’re working with a variety of industry partners on that.”

Beefing up inventory is not without its challenges, though. The US is having to establish new manufacturing lines to build the actual shells, invest in the capacity to pack the shells with explosives so they’re functional, and bring in additional production — at home or overseas — for the charges that go behind the shell and propel them from heavy artillery pieces like howitzers. 

“All of those things do have to come together, so there are always risks in that,” Bush said, adding that the US is getting the resources and contracts and working closely with industry partners to knock down any roadblocks. 

In any conflict, critical resources like artillery ammunition may be in high demand, Bush said.

He noted that while it’s important to ramp up production of 155 mm rounds primarily to support Ukraine and replenish domestic stockpiles, the US is also expecting increased demands from allied countries who want a piece of the pie — which the Army expects will eventually be over one million shells a year — to ensure they are able to adequately defend themselves. 

A gun crewmember loads the M777 howitzer to aim artillery fire onto Russian positions near the occupied Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on July 13, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Photo by Roman Chop/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

“Between supporting Ukraine, replenishing ourselves, and supporting other countries — allies, we expect to use that capacity,” he said. “That’s the overall reason we’re doing it.”

The US has already committed over $43 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion last year, according to Pentagon data. That includes more than 2 million 155 mm artillery rounds and nearly 200 howitzers that can be used to fire these munitions. 

American officials have said that Ukrainian soldiers are firing thousands of artillery rounds a day on the battlefield, and complaints from the Russian side indicate that they have been able to inflict serious damage on some front-line Russian positions.

Kyiv’s troops have been complementing this capability with other high-profile weapons from the US — like air-defense systems, rocket artillery, anti-tank missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and armored vehicles — to hinder Russian operations, push Moscow’s forces back, and even make territorial gains in the eastern and southern occupied regions.  

“Our equipment is working. Wars are complicated endeavors — they rise and fall based on many factors,” Bush said. “American equipment that’s getting to Ukraine is highly effective in combat, and that doesn’t just happen. That’s a result of decades of work by thousands of people to make sure our equipment’s tested well and also that our industry partners produce it critically at a high level of quality.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
Avatar

Read more

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