Europe has overpromised on artillery shells to Ukraine and is making even less than it admits: investigation

    A Ukrainian soldier prepares 155mm artillery shells in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, in August 2023.

    Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Europe’s artillery shell production won’t meet promises made to Ukraine, an investigation found.The European Commission claimed production of 1 million shells annually as of January this year.An investigation found that actual production is around 550,000 shells, a major shortfall.

    European claims about its capacity to produce artillery shells are wildly overblown, meaning it won’t be able to supply Ukraine anywhere near the quantity it has promised, according to a new investigation.

    The European Commission claimed that, as of January this year, Europe’s annual production capacity for 155 mm shells had reached one million shells a year.

    This was followed by claims in June by the EU’s Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, that the bloc planned to be producing 1.7 million shells annually by the end of 2024.

    But a consortium of newsrooms, including Radio Free Europe and Die Welt, which spoke to manufacturers, experts and government officials, said in an investigation published Monday that these claims are far from the reality.

    An internal document from Rheinmetall, Germany’s flagship arms manufacturer and one of Europe’s largest, instead put the EU’s annual 155mm shell production at the start of the year at more like 550,000, the group reported.

    This tallies with a report published at the end of 2023 by the Estonian defense ministry, which estimated that collective production for that year stood at between 480,000 and 700,000 shells — a far cry from the European Commission’s claims a month later.

    The investigation published Monday reported that unnamed experts and industry insiders broadly agreed with their assessment.

    One source familiar with the industry said Europe would produce less than half a million shells by the end of the year, and said it was poor policy to pretend otherwise.

    The report identified numerous factors affecting the shortfalls, including a global gunpowder shortage and the lack of long-term contracts from governments to encourage the scaling-up of production.

    European Commission spokesperson Johanna Bernsel told Business Insider that it stands by its estimate “under realistic operational conditions, in response to orders received.”

    She added that the estimates were based on EU member state and industry data, and that they take into account ongoing investment and efforts to reduce bottlenecks.

    She also said that not all production is openly disclosed to media for security reasons.

    155mm shells have been a crucial staple for both sides of the conflict in Ukraine. As of January, Ukrainian forces were firing in the range of 200,000 a month, according to internal estimates seen by Bloomberg.

    In addition to supplying Ukraine, European states need to conserve some supplies for their own defensive stockpiles, and for other conflicts worldwide.

    Ukraine has already experienced critical shortages of the munition, notably during the six months that US Congress held up sending further aid to Ukraine, forcing it to drastically ration its supplies at a time when Russia was firing an estimated 10,000 shells a day.

    As of May, Russia was able to produce artillery shells about three times faster than Ukraine’s allies were able to, and for a quarter of the cost, Sky News reported.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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