January 30, 2023

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The West is mobilizing its defense industry to continue supporting Ukraine

Western countries, which have been relying for six months on their arsenals to help Ukraine repel Russian forces, are now mobilizing their defense industries to replenish their weapons stockpiles and continue to support Kiev.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced last week that a special meeting of arms directors from the almost 50-nation Ukraine defense contact group will soon be held.

They will discuss how our defense industries can better equip Ukraine’s future armed forces“, he told the press at the end of the fifth meeting of the contact group that took place at the American base Ramstein in Germany.

On Friday, Pentagon Armaments Director Bill LaPlante said the meeting, the first of its kind, would take place on September 28 in Brussels.

The objective is “to see how we can further cooperate to accelerate the production of key capabilities, solve supply chain problems and increase the interoperability and interconnection of our systems“, he stated in a press conference in Washington.

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Ukraine war

NATO countries do not have the same weapons, but they are all compatible: ammunition manufactured in one country can be used by a system produced by another country.

The conflict in Ukraine, where artillery proves to be decisive, consumes an impressive amount of various projectiles, and the Western countries have offered weapons to NATO standards to the Ukrainian forces, much more accurate than the Russian-made ammunition that they had until now.

But these donations have exhausted the arsenals of the European countries, and the EU announced in July a support of 500 million euros for two years to facilitate joint purchases of armaments.

Priority will be given to the acquisition of portable air missiles, portable anti-tank missiles, 155 mm guns and ammunition for them. “It must be accelerated, given the national stocks“, said then the European Commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton.

The US, the main provider of military aid to Ukraine, has already released $15.2 billion to send various weapons, especially Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery pieces and shells compatible with NATO artillery systems.

The US alone provided 800,000 such 155mm shells, or three-quarters of the Western countries’ donations, according to the spokesman for the US General Staff, Colonel Dave Butler.

But the only production facility for these shells in the US, a General Dynamics plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania, currently produces 14,000 per month.

We need to reach 36,000 per month in three years,” LaPlante said.

But such an acceleration can only be done in stages, by opening new assembly lines, and will only increase annual US production from 168,000 to 432,000 shells, no earlier than 2025.

Although the American army has a considerable stock of various shells, the Pentagon wants to call on other producing countries to complete its arsenal, as well as that of its allies, while continuing to help Kiev.

The US Army recently signed contracts with several manufacturers in the world for the purchase of 250,000 shells, the director of the American armament emphasized.

Washington has also provided Ukrainian forces with more than 1,400 Stinger short-range missile launchers. Some parts of these anti-aircraft systems, used for over 40 years, have become obsolete, and the manufacturer Raytheon stopped production in 2020.

Their success in Ukraine prompted the U.S. military to award a nearly $700 million contract to manufacturer Raytheon in May to restock those Stingers.

US munitions deliveries to Ukraine are not specifically linked to the annual production capacity of a particular type of weaponry offered by the US defense industry, but this production capacity is one of the factors taken into account”, according to Colonel Butler.

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