Artillery vehicle

NATO’s low artillery stock threatens deterrence against Russia

NATO faces a significant challenge in adequately supplying its new high-readiness force with ammunition to defend against a possible Russian invasion, defense experts have said.

European countries have sent significant amounts of their stockpiles of weapons to Ukraine, raising concerns about equipping the alliance’s new high readiness force of 300,000 soldiers on the eastern flank.

The National learned that there are a number of weapon systems that will take a long time to manufacture due to global supply shortages, including the NLAW anti-tank weapon.

While America has huge stockpiles of tanks, armored vehicles and ammunition, European NATO forces have none and have witnessed “notable stockpile reductions”, military analysts have said.

“There are issues about whether NATO has made enough munitions to meet its needs in the event of a war with Russia,” said military analyst Sam Cranny-Evans.

“Parts of our defense industry have been quite neglected and governments know it. Addressing this issue will require a different type of relationship between defense ministries and industry.

The British-supplied NLAW anti-tank missile has proven very effective against Russian tanks, but components for the system are difficult to obtain, including microchips supplied by Taiwan.

The UK has donated 5,000 NLAWs to Ukraine and it appears the government recently placed an order for a similar amount from the Belfast-based company that manufactures them.

However, NLAW’s last major order was placed in 2006 and now a number of components and machinery are difficult to replace.

Ben Wallace, the Defense Secretary, has held urgent talks with major UK defense companies, including BAE Systems, asking them to increase production to resupply Ukraine and ensure national defenses are properly supplied .

In its strategic concept announced on Wednesday, NATO said it could not “rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty of the allies” by Russia.

It will now assemble a force of 300,000 troops for the front line in Eastern Europe with 100,000 troops at “very high readiness” capable of deploying within 10 days.

Light and heavy weapon systems, including air defence, artillery and tanks, will be “positioned forward”, but it is questionable whether they can be properly provisioned.

A number of smaller NATO countries have depleted their stocks, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia relatively giving more than any other country in terms of infantry fighting vehicles and tanks.

Poland has also provided Ukraine with a quarter of its Soviet-era tank force, sending 230 T72s out of a total of 860. It hopes to be “filled” by America, which will supply it with modern M1A1 Abrams tanks.

France donated about 15 of its total of 70 advanced Caesar artillery pieces which have high accuracy and out of range Russian guns.

A Ukrainian serviceman checks an NLAW anti-tank system in an area not far from the Ukrainian city of Chugiv.  AFP

But there are questions about how easily NATO forces can stockpile artillery shells that are proving effective in Ukraine.

Currently, Ukraine spends around 6,000 shells a day, with the Russian figure approaching 20,000 rounds.

To build a credible deterrent, NATO will need to create a stockpile at least equal to Russian spending, military experts have said.

“Can western industry meet the demand for 20,000 rounds per day when the signal of demand for so long has been for exquisite precision-guided munitions as opposed to mass fires?” said Mr Cranny-Evans, of the London-based think tank RUSI.

“Personally, I don’t think they can right now. But if the political momentum is strong and determined enough, then there will be change. Because if you’re not prepared to fight such a long and hard battle, your deterrence is not credible.

There is also a problem with the different sizes of the various NATO ammunition because the artillery pieces sent to Ukraine have five different calibers.

However, most of the combat vehicles sent come from stocks that are no longer widely used by NATO such as American Humvees or French VAB armored vehicles.

Europe also retains powerful air forces, including fighter jets and attack helicopters vastly superior to Russian aircraft.

Also, production lines of advanced precision-guided munitions such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, Hellfire and Brimstone missiles are performing well as orders continue.

Additionally, defense watchers say weapons in Ukraine are causing significant attrition to Russian forces.

“Nato powers are reducing their weapons systems, but these are having real effects in Ukraine, damaging and destroying Russian capabilities, which advances European security in places like the Baltics,” commented the defense blogger known as “Perun”.

A comment on its site mentioned that Estonia sent 500 Javelin missiles to Ukraine in late February, adding: “Every piece of Russian armor destroyed in Ukraine is one less system that can be used to invade the Baltic.”

Up to 800 Russian tanks were lost in Ukraine.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 11:36 a.m.

!function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s) {if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod ? n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)}; if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version=’2.0′; n.tail=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0; t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’, ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’); fbq(‘init’, ‘797427810752825’); fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);