Espreso. Global

US struggles to supply Ukraine with crucial artillery shells amid counteroffensive – FT 

1 August, 2023 Tuesday
16:48

The Biden administration is facing challenges in providing essential munitions to Ukraine as it continues its counteroffensive against Russian forces

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The Financial Times writes about it. 

The focus is on delivering more 155mm caliber shells for the howitzers used along the front line.

“I personally sit in my office every morning and spend 30 minutes on 155[mm] ammunition,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. “We are actively working as rapidly as possible to build out the production lines for 155.”

To address the immediate need, international allies like Bulgaria and South Korea have struck deals to supply the shells, and discussions with Japan are underway.

However, ramping up US production of these crucial munitions to 90,000 per month will take until 2025 due to past neglect of this area. Over the last decade, the US has primarily used these shells for training exercises, which means “the US has already given Ukraine more than the quantity it procured in 155mm purchases over the past decade,” the article notes. 

“We did not anticipate or prepare for a long war and the industrial base was constrained for efficiency,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “As the front lines stabilize, the importance of artillery increases. The surprise has been how important just regular artillery shells are.” 

Artillery warfare has been intense on the front line, with both sides firing thousands of shells daily. The US's limited supply of 155mm shells prompted President Biden's controversial decision to authorize shipments of cluster munitions to Ukraine to ensure they have the ammunition they need.

“We’re at the point where they’re supplying Ukraine at the level they can, and they’ve given them as much as they can, while keeping the reserves that they think are important to have in case there were an unforeseen crisis,” said Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the Defence Program at CNAS.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for increased weapons supply from Western allies, and the US, along with other international partners, has trained 66,000 Ukrainian forces and committed significant lethal assistance, according to the article. 

Despite Ukraine's readiness, the demand for 155mm shells remains high. According to US officials, Ukraine is currently firing up to 8,000 artillery shells a day. "With the stabilization of the front line, the importance of artillery is growing," Cancian said. 

The US is working on increasing production by 2025, aiming to produce up to 90,000 shells per month. This effort faces challenges due to limited production facilities. Production takes place primarily at four government-owned and contractor-operated facilities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Iowa. However, the US Army is taking steps to expand production lines.

Still, the US remains committed to supporting Ukraine “as long as it takes,” as stated by the National Security Council.






 
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