The supply of ammunition to Ukraine is essential to the war

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With indications that Russia plans to resume offensive operations in Ukraine next spring, Ukraine’s allies are scrambling to supply the country with sufficient artillery ammunition.

But the whole world must be searched for ammunition for the motley collection of Soviet-made guns and array of howitzers and rocket launchers supplied by various Western countries.

“Ammunition availability may be the single most important factor determining the course of the war in 2023, and it will depend on foreign supplies and production,” US defense experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee wrote for the December 2020 issue of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The US has promised to increase ammunition production. The US military has recently begun looking for companies to help assemble XM1128 long-range 155mm howitzer ammunition.

Photo: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

This month, the US military is hosting an information day to “advise the industrial sector on the potential requirements of the US military to accelerate the production and delivery of 155 mm projectiles and auxiliary equipment and the need to expand the industrial base. expand”.

Non-European allies of the United States are also being asked to contribute. For example, the Americans are buying 100,000 155 mm shells from South Korea to be sent to Ukraine.

The problem is that expanding munitions production lines can take years, a process not helped by Pentagon bureaucracy.

The challenges are even more pressing for Europe, with a large but fragmented arms industry spread across many countries. After years of defense cuts, Europe is trying to supply Ukraine despite limited supplies and production capacity.

The United States has also committed to supplying Ukraine with “non-standard ammunition,” that is, ammunition for Russian-made Ukrainian weapons of a design and caliber not produced by American factories.

Ukraine’s shopping list includes 152 mm and 122 mm howitzers, 122 mm rockets and ammunition for tank guns. This has prompted US officials to purchase ammunition from Eastern European factories equipped to produce ammunition of Russian design.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US has had to go through the same process before to support groups in Iraq and Afghanistan that used Soviet and Russian-made weapons. But the very intensive war in Ukraine creates a much greater demand for weapons.

Artillery, which Stalin called the “god of war”, is the backbone of both the Russian and Ukrainian armies. Russia has used massive artillery strikes to support its slow-moving infantry and armored vehicles, while Ukraine has had tremendous success with precision-guided munitions and missiles such as HIMARS multiple rocket launchers.

But the war god has an insatiable hunger: In November, the Pentagon estimated that Russia was launching 20,000 shells a day, while Ukraine was launching 4,000 to 7,000 a day.

In light of this, it is not surprising that Ukraine has attacked Russian ammunition depots with GPS-guided HIMARS missiles. Russia may already be facing such a shortage of shells that Moscow is buying ammunition from North Korea. Ukrainian troops have reported that Russian bombing has now eased.

Michael Peck writes about defense and being work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine and other publications. He has a master’s degree in political science. Follow him up Twitter and LinkedIn.

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