Artillery types

Army ramps up production of artillery shells as war in Ukraine depletes supply

The military plans to dramatically ramp up production of 155mm artillery shells and precision-guided rockets to make up for all the munitions the United States has supplied to Ukraine, said Doug Bush, deputy secretary. of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology. The US Army needs many more artillery shells, rockets and missiles for the next war

“We are looking for a few years to almost triple our production of 155 [mm shells]”Congress has been supportive; we have funding; we are executing and making it happen. We are also working, with Congressional support, to dramatically increase our GLMRS missile production rate – Guided MLRS [Multiple Launch Rocket System]HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems] launchers – in most cases doubling or more than doubling current production rates.

Since Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine in late February, the US military has supplied the Ukrainians with approximately 807,000 155mm howitzer shells and another 144,000 105mm artillery shells, according to the Pentagon. Defense officials have not said publicly how many precision-guided rockets the U.S. military has provided Ukrainians for the 16 HIMARS the U.S. has also donated to Ukraine. since February 25.

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Now Congress is providing the military with the money to replenish its own stockpiles of shells and missiles while continuing to help Ukraine, Bush told reporters during a media roundtable.

Several 155mm rounds are displayed during a live fire exercise of the M777 towed 155mm howitzer at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, March 2, 2020. (Spc. Derek Mustard/US Army)

“Production rates must and are increasing,” Bush said. “I don’t know how long the conflict will last. We’re doing things, though, to make sure that if it lasts a long time, we’ll be able to support it, based on the best information we have. War is an uncertain business.

Tube and rocket artillery turned out to be one of the most important weapons in the Ukrainian arsenal. Howitzers and HIMARS supplied by the United States and other allies enabled the Ukrainians to halt the Russian advance and strike targets well behind the front lines. The fighting became so intense that Oleksandr V. Danylyuk, an adviser to the Ukrainian government, told the Washington Post in June that the Ukrainian forces were firing between 5,000 and 6,000 artillery shells a day. He also said the Russians were firing up to 50,000 rounds a day.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in August that some Pentagon officials feared the war in Ukraine had depleted the US military’s stockpile of ammunition. An unnamed defense official told the newspaper that stocks of 155mm artillery shells had fallen to an “uncomfortably low” level, but the situation was not critical as the US military is currently not engaged in a major conflict.

Bush told reporters on Wednesday that the production rates for the 155mm shells meet the Department of Defense’s current combat and training needs.

While he said he was “not uncomfortable” with the current size of the Army’s 155mm shell inventory, Bush declined to say how many artillery the army has at this time.

Additionally, Bush declined to comment when Task & Purpose asked if the military had enough shells if the United States entered a major war in the near future.

“Sorry to dodge the question, but I’m not the person to make that judgment,” Bush said. “I don’t speak for the whole army on such things. I really encourage you to ask this question above. On the acquisition side, we are doing everything we can as quickly as possible to increase production rates to mitigate any potential risk. »

Bush also warned that it will take time to ramp up production of precision-guided shells and rockets. Normally, it would take up to a year to ramp up HIMARS production lines, but the Department of Defense is working closely with industry to expedite this process and the US military is asking its allies to supply shells to the ‘Ukraine.

“I would say those goals are more in the high number of months to a year to try to get those increased production rates to fully manifest,” Bush said.

The Army has facilities in Virginia and Tennessee that manufacture propellants and explosives for 155mm shells, he said. The shell bodies themselves are manufactured at an Army munitions factory and a private facility owned by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, both located in Pennsylvania. Then the shells are assembled at the Army Ammunition Plant in Iowa.

“It’s an example of government-owned facilities that we’re keeping for exactly that purpose,” Bush said. “Rather than starting from scratch, we have a government-owned capability to do things in a hurry and accelerate them in a hurry. That’s why we have these facilities rather than giving them away between conflicts.

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