The war in Ukraine has cost the U.S. more than $18.6 billion in security assistance so far. The most recent request was on Nov 10th for another $400 million, and asked for 21,000 155mm artillery rounds, 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, and other military equipment. Ukraine is burning through howitzer ammunition at a very high rate, some 7,000 rounds a day, and that has the Pentagon worried. It takes approximately a year to a year and a half to replenish stockpiles. Gordon Lubold, Nancy Youssef, and Ben Kessling of The WSJ write (abridged):
The war in Ukraine has depleted American stocks of some types of ammunition and the Pentagon has been slow to replenish its arsenal, sparking concerns among U.S. officials that American military readiness could be jeopardized by the shortage.
The U.S. has during the past six months supplied Ukraine with 16 U.S. rocket launchers, known as Himars, thousands of guns, drones, missiles and other equipment. Much of that, including ammunition, has come directly from U.S. inventory, depleting stockpiles intended for unexpected threats, defense officials say.
One of the most lethal weapons the Pentagon has sent are howitzers that fire high-explosive 155mm ammunition weighing about 100 pounds each and able to accurately hit targets dozens of miles away. As of Aug. 24, the U.S. military said it had provided Ukraine with up to 806,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition. The U.S. military has declined to say how many rounds it had at the start of the year.
In recent weeks, the level of 155mm combat rounds in U.S. military storage have become “uncomfortably low,” one defense official said. […]
In the U.S., it takes 13 to 18 months from the time orders are placed for munitions to be manufactured, according to an industry official. Replenishing stockpiles of more sophisticated weaponry such as missiles and drones can take much longer.
Even a yearlong delay is a problem precisely because ammunition shortages can pop up quickly given the rate they can be drawn down in a conflict. […]
Speaking on an earnings call July 19, Jim Taiclet, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp., said the Pentagon has yet to put the contracts in place or coordinate with industry to buy more supplies, a process that often takes two to three years.
The Defense Department needs to “shift gears” if it wants industry to prepare for more orders, he said. “And I can tell you the clutch isn’t engaged yet.”
The diminishing stockpile has the U.S. so concerned that they are working on agreement with South Korea to manufacture some 100,000 rounds for Ukraine. Lolita Baldor and Tara Copp of the Associated Press write (abridged):
The U.S. will buy 100,000 rounds of howitzer artillery from South Korean manufacturers to provide to Ukraine, a U.S. official said Thursday, in a deal the two governments have been working on for some time.
The agreement comes as Ukrainian leaders press for more weapons and aid to take advantage of a counteroffensive that is pushing Russian forces out of some areas they had taken over earlier in the war. And it relieves concerns within the U.S. military — particularly the Army and the Marine Corps — who are worried that persistent transfers of the Pentagon’s howitzer ammunition to Ukraine are eating into their stockpiles.
Other defense officials confirmed the broad outlines of the contract and said it would help with stockpile pressures, specifically involving the howitzer ammunition, which Ukrainian forces have been using at a high rate. Last week a defense official briefing reporters said Ukraine was burning through as many as 7,000 rounds of ammunition a day, while Russia was firing as much as 20,000 rounds daily. […]
The South Korea agreement provides a sharp counterpoint to U.S. accusations earlier this month that North Korea was covertly shipping artillery to Russia. It’s not immediately clear whether the deal opens the possibility of South and North Korean artillery being fired against each other in Ukraine. […]
Experts say North Korea has the potential to become a major source of munitions for Russia, considering the interoperability of their weapons systems based on Soviet roots. They say that the North, which has used the distraction created by the war to ramp up missile tests to a record pace, could seek to receive in return Russian fuel and technology transfers to further advance its military capabilities as it pursues more powerful missiles and nuclear warheads. […]
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