The Department of Defense is planning to boost production of artillery ammunition by 500 percent over the next two years – not for the nation’s benefit, but for Ukraine.
Such a move would push conventional ammunition production to levels not seen since the Korean War, as the Pentagon hopes to invest billions of dollars more to make up for supply shortfalls caused by America’s massive military aid shipments to Kyiv.
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Under the Defense Department’s proposal, the United States would raise production levels for 155mm artillery shells to 90,000 rounds every month.
This is a massive departure from last month’s announcement by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, who said that the goal was to manufacture “20,000 rounds a month” by the end of spring of 2023 and 40,000 rounds a month by 2025.
The Defense Department will spend roughly $1 billion a year over the next 15 years to fund new facilities to make artillery ammunition and to modernize current government-owned ordnance production facilities to increase automation, improve worker safety and make munitions much quicker. This is on top of the $1.9 billion Congress allocated to the Army for its current defense production efforts.
“We are really working closely with industry to both increase their capacity and also the speed at which they’re able to produce,” said Wormuth. She added that this effort includes identifying “particular components that are sort of choke points” and “sourcing those to try to be able to move things more quickly.”
US arms commitments to Ukraine to continue despite supply shortfalls
Before the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the Army was producing 14,400 unguided artillery shells a month. This amount was regarded as sufficient for the military’s way of war, which has for the past few decades been focused almost exclusively on dealing with low-tech enemy combatants in militias or insurgencies.
The desire to massively increase artillery ammunition production comes after U.S. officials expressed concerns regarding how America’s military aid shipments to Ukraine may have depleted the country’s stockpile of artillery ammunition. Some defense officials pointed out how the country’s supply of 155-millimeter rounds was “uncomfortably low” and “not at the level we would like to go into combat.”
Despite the massive shortfalls in crucial military stockpiles, the U.S. is still committing more and more resources to Ukraine. As of Jan. 18, America had already sent or committed at least 160 M777 Howitzer artillery pieces and just under 1.1 million 155mm artillery rounds. Despite this already massive deployment, it still may not be enough – and Kyiv is burning through the 155mm rounds fast.
The 155mm unguided artillery shells for howitzers have become the cornerstone of the nearly year-long conflict, with both Ukrainian and Russian troops firing thousands of rounds at each other every day along a front that stretches over 700 miles long. U.S. officials estimate that these weapons are likely responsible for the greatest percentage of war casualties, which are now thought to be more than 200,000 total.
Last month, Ukraine used 14,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition every 48 hours on average – roughly the same number produced by the U.S. per month before the conflict.
The Army’s recent decision to expand its artillery ammunition product is, according to New York Times writers John Ismay and Eric Lipton, “the clearest sign yet that the United States plans to back Ukraine no matter how long the war continues.”
Learn more about other threats to America’s national security at NationalSecurity.news.
Watch this episode of “The New Atlas” as host Brian Berletic discusses how the U.S. has pledged to send over M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, further depleting American military stockpiles.
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