The United States may find it difficult to continue supplying Ukraine with 155mm artillery shells, given post-Covid industrial difficulties and the general decline of American manufacturing itself.
With its own inventory of M795 155mm shells running low and Ukraine having used perhaps tens of thousands so far, the recent tactical victory in Kharkiv may well spur the US to find a solution – as President Volodymyr Zelensky describes it as the first major turnaround in the six-month war.
The US Army on August 18 released a survey to find companies capable of producing 12,000 M795 155mm artillery shells per month. This was after running out of its own stock when it supplied 800,000 rounds to Ukraine in early September.
“A description of existing production capacity includes a monthly production and delivery capacity of 12,000 projectiles per month, a maximum monthly production capacity, and whether they have manufactured this item or similar items in the past,” reads -on in the survey.
“Potential sources in the United States and Canada” should be able to “load, assemble, package (LAP) and deliver the M795 155mm High Explosive Projectile (HE).”
“Just for Ukraine” – After cutting production, the US military wants to revive the factory
The M795 is the standard ammunition for the M777 light towed howitzer used by the US Army and US Marine Corps. As of September 8, the United States had transferred 126 M777 guns to Ukraine since the start of the Russian military intervention on February 24.
It’s part of a $14.5 billion security assistance package, according to a Department of Defense (DoD) fact sheet.
However, in June 2021, the Army announced a reduction in spending on 155mm shells to $174 million, from $306 million in fiscal year 2022.
The reports quote officials citing “budgetary pressures” rather than “operational needs such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Wanting to reallocate the money saved to other modernization efforts, the Army made sure it had enough rounds to spend on training purposes.
The U.S. Army hoped to fund the development of new systems like the rocket-assisted XM113 and extended-range cannon artillery costing $51.1 million with the economy.
Meanwhile, long-range artillery became the decisive factor in Ukraine, with Russia’s advantage in barrel and tube rocket systems and Ukraine losing most of its artillery pieces and shells. from the Soviet era.
Additionally, Russia claimed to have destroyed several M777s and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) since the United States began transferring the systems.
Ukraine uses 5,000 a day – but the US wants to produce 500 and Russia can make 2,000
In June, Ukraine was using 5,000-6,000 rounds a day, but at a ratio of one piece to Russia’s 10-15 artillery pieces, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief Vadym Skibitsky said in a statement. a Guardian report.
The report also states that Ukrainian military intelligence believes that Russia can continue to fight at the current rate for another year without having to manufacture more weapons or mobilize the population.
Skibitsky also added the near impossibility of being able to retake Kherson and Zhaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, where Russia has been digging in for the “long term”, even building “double” and “triple” defense lines.
Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin on September 8 announced that the United States was ready to “integrate”, “work together” and “innovate” on the “long term” of Ukraine against Russia.
But that would first require being able to produce 12,000 rounds per month (144,000 per year), which translates to 500 rounds per day, a far cry from meeting Ukraine’s daily needs of 5-6,000 rounds.
Interestingly, Russia-critical media themselves note Russia’s military industrial means that could produce 570,000 artillery munitions per year as of 2017, which translates to 47,500 per month (almost 2,000 per day) – four times what the United States aims to do.
Ukraine’s heavy use of artillery also disabled its own self-propelled howitzer (SPH) Panzerhaubitze-2000 (PzH-2000).
Ukraine was firing well over 100 shells a day, stipulated as “high intensity” by the makers of the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) system, Rheinmetall and the primary user, the Bundeswehr (German military).
Concerns about post-Covid supply chain disruptions are another issue US industry may face. This featured in Lockheed Martin’s media interactions regarding the Javelin missile and the F-22 Raptor, where they said ramping up production and getting suppliers in order would take a long time.
To “arm” Ukraine, the American allies are disarming themselves
Finally, arming Ukraine from its stockpile has been an irritant between American allies. In May, Poland expressed disapproval of Germany’s inability to replenish Warszawa with old “Leopard” tanks after the latter sent dozens of its Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine. .
Poland was hoping for a circular deal that Germany had with the Czech Republic, where Berlin resupplied Prague’s armor with older variants of the Leopard tank (possibly the Leopard 1) after it also sent its tanks from the Soviet era in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Canada has also said it expects South Korea to replenish its arsenal of 155mm rounds in May this year. Ottawa had sent an additional 20,000 such shells to Ukraine. South Korean Defense Ministry officials said the deal could involve up to 100,000 shells from Seoul’s reserves.