New reports say that, while the U.S. Army is working to produce more of a critical munition after it was nearly depleted in support of Ukraine in their defense against Russia, they are currently unable to produce enough to replenish stockpiles.
In September, the Pentagon’s weapons chief issued a goal for 2025 to produce 100,000 155mm artillery rounds per month, up from the 80,000 forecasted in August, and the 36,000 in 2022, according to Defense News.
While a series of production contract announcements since that time shows that the Pentagon is working to feed Ukraine’s artillery units until the war ends, there may be issues in maintaining that production capacity in peacetime, according to retired Col. Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The U.S. is surging more than the U.S. had planned back in January,” Cancian told the Daily Caller. “The fundamental problem is Ukraine is firing 150,000 to 300,000 rounds per month and the United States is talking about getting up to 100,000 per month in two years. If the war continued, even if we got up to that level, we still wouldn’t have enough.”
Despite the fact that European countries have also ramped up production as more rounds are fed to Ukraine, the numbers that are being sent are still nearly being overwhelmed by the nation’s massive needs, and leave next to nothing to America’s own needs.
According to officials, Ukraine goes through as many as 6,000 to 7,000 155mm rounds on a daily basis during its most intense artillery battles.
The majority of those rounds have been supplied by the U.S., and over two million 155mm rounds and 7,000 precision-guided 155mm rounds have been supplied to Ukraine as of Sept. 21, according to Pentagon documents.
In early 2023, Pentagon production was at 14,000 rounds monthly, according to Department of Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante, Reuters reported. It’s worth noting that U.S. troops consume about 100,000 rounds per year in training alone, and the military attempts to keep an inventory of about two million.
The rapid depletion of ammo stocks created fears among defense officials and analysts that the U.S. would run out of the commonly used round completely. If Ukraine were to run out of inventory, they would be crippled in the short-range artillery fire in a war that depends heavily on attrition-based artillery tactics at the same time as it would erode U.S. readiness.
On Thursday, the Army announced that in the last two weeks of September they had awarded $1.5 billion to procure “each major component, material, or required protection process to maintain momentum.” for the 80,000 by 2025 goal.
Several contracting centers in the U.S., as well as in partner nations including Poland, India and Canada, will receive awards made under “multi-year procurement,” where Congress will allow the DOD to temporarily bypass yearly budget cycles and enter into long term contracts.
The Army awarded the first of four multiyear contract through the end of 2024 meant to boost 155mm production in August, according to Inside Defense. That work will continue through 2027, according to Army acquisition chief Doug Bush.
“If you do the math on the 80,000 to 85,000 a month, I mean that’s a million a year. So, between supporting Ukraine, replenishing ourselves and supporting other allies, we expect to use that capacity. That’s the overall reason we’re doing it,” Bush said, according to Inside Defense.
However, Cancian notes that the increase in production means bringing old facilities back online, and potentially building new ones entirely and keeping equipment serviceable when not in use. That costs money, and even some appropriators in Congress consider those expenses wasteful.
“The question is, how do you maintain that surge capability once peacetime returns? DOD is wrestling with that,” Cancian said.
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