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US scrambles to find what experts say is the ‘most important’ hardware Ukraine needs to hold off Russia in 2023


Ukrainian troops prepare to fire an L119 howitzer at Russian positions in the Luhansk region on January 16.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

  • Ukraine and Russia relied heavily on artillery to beat each other’s forces.

  • If they can find more ammo for this artillery, it will affect the course of the war in 2023.

  • To support Ukraine, the United States and its allies are searching the world for the right shells.

As Russia plans to resume offensive operations in the spring of 2023, Ukraine’s allies are scrambling to supply Ukraine with enough artillery ammunition.

But that requires traveling the world in search of ammunition to fuel Ukraine’s polyglot collection of Soviet-designed weaponry and the dizzying array of howitzers and rocket launchers supplied by various Western countries.

“Availability of munitions may be the single most important factor determining the course of the war in 2023, and it will depend on foreign stockpiles and production,” US defense experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee wrote in December for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The United States promised to increase its production of ammunition. The U.S. Army has recently begun looking for companies that can help assemble XM1128 155mm long-range howitzer ammunition.

Troops of artillery soldiers of Ukraine Bakhmut

A Ukrainian artillery unit fires at Russian positions near Bakhmut in December.SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

This month, the Army is hosting an Industry Day to “inform the industrial base of potential U.S. Army requirements for expedited production and delivery of 155mm projectiles and ancillary equipment and the need expand the capacity of the industrial base”. This includes not only the hull itself, but all necessary components such as thruster, fuses and packing materials.

Even non-European allies of the United States are invited to contribute. The United States buys 100,000 155 mm shells from South Korea which will be sent to Ukraine.

The problem is that expanding munitions production lines can take years, a process not aided by Pentagon bureaucracy. The challenges are even more difficult for Europe, with a large but fragmented arms industry spread across many countries. Years after post-Cold War defense cuts, Europe is scrambling to supply Ukraine despite limited stocks and production capacity.

The United States has also pledged to supply Ukraine with “non-standard ammunition”, i.e. shells for Ukrainian weapons of Russian design that use a design and caliber not produced by American factories. . Ukraine’s shopping list includes 152mm and 122mm howitzers, 122mm rockets and tank gun ammunition. This led US officials to purchase munitions from factories in Eastern Europe equipped to produce Russian-style munitions.

Cyclist cycling Kupiansk Ukraine

The town of Kupiansk, near Kharkiv, seen here on January 6, has come under regular Russian bombardment.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The United States has already had to do this to support clients such as Iraq and Afghanistan, which used Soviet and Russian-made weapons. But the high-intensity fighting in Ukraine generates much higher demand than these smaller conflicts.

Artillery – Stalin’s famous “god of war” – was the backbone of the Russian and Ukrainian armies. Russia has relied on massive saturation barrages to support its slow-moving infantry and armour, while Ukraine has had tremendous success using precision-guided shells and rockets such as the Multiple Rocket Launcher. HIMARS.

But the god of war has a voracious appetite: in November, the Pentagon estimated that Russia fired 20,000 shells a day, while Ukraine fired 4,000 to 7,000.

There’s a good reason Ukraine targeted Russian ammunition dumps with GPS-guided HIMARS rockets. Russia may already be experiencing such a severe shortage of shells that Moscow is buying ammunition from North Korea. Ukrainian forces have reported that the Russian barrages are now less intense.

Troops of artillery soldiers of Ukraine Bakhmut

Ukrainian artillery troops handle shells while firing at Russian positions near Bakhmut in December.SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images

During World War I and World War II, artillery ammunition would not have been such a problem. The United States, Germany, Britain and Russia eventually developed enough manufacturing capacity to keep their big guns in action. During the Soviet offensive against Seelow Heights in April 1945, Red Army gunners fired 500,000 shells in 30 minutes.

But things changed after the Cold War. For two decades, the United States has focused on supporting small-scale counterinsurgency operations rather than the ammunition-intensive “big war” in Ukraine. European armies and defense industries collapsed, while the post-Soviet military suffered from major budget cuts.

Meanwhile, defense procurement increasingly shifted to purchasing small numbers of expensive, high-tech guided shells and rockets.

But the Russo-Ukrainian war demonstrated the continued need for large quantities of shells. The god of war is still a big eater.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine and other publications. He holds a master’s degree in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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