Ammunition for Ukraine: The US military is reaching its limits

Ammunition for Ukraine: The US military is reaching its limits

The U.S. military will soon be unable to provide Ukraine with the advanced equipment it has previously provided as its reserves, particularly ammunition, are reaching their limits, according to U.S. officials and experts.

The United States is by far the largest arms donor to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24, with more than $16.8 billion in military aid to Kyiv.

But US stockpiles of some equipment are “reaching the minimum levels needed for planning and training,” and replenishing stocks to pre-invasion levels “could take several years,” according to Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). .

Older equipment is available and “it will be an increasingly important part of transfers going forward,” added this former Marine Corps colonel, who was responsible for Pentagon arms purchases from 2008 to 2015, in a recent note.

US FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles arrive at Kyiv airport on February 13, 2022, on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP/Archives – Sergei SUPINSKY)

“We are learning lessons” about the ammunition needs of the American army in a conflict between major powers that are “far higher” than forecast, an American soldier admitted on condition of anonymity.

Forced to slash output in the 1990s as the United States sought to reap the rewards of peace after the collapse of the USSR, the American defense industry has turned its attention to absorbing the shock.

The number of defense and aeronautical assemblies fell from 51 to 5 in a few years.

Today, the US government must persuade the industry to reopen production lines and resume abandoned production, such as that of the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which ceased production in 2020.

Some of this equipment has become symbols of the war in Ukraine, such as the Javelin, the anti-tank weapon widely used by Ukrainian forces early in the conflict to push back a column of Russian tanks attempting to enter Kyiv, or the Himars , light armor-mounted rocket launchers that play an important role in Ukrainian counter-offensives in the east and south of the country.

– “Near the limit” –

However, according to Mr. Cancian, American stocks of ammunition needed for the Himars, GPS-guided missiles known as GMLERS, which have a range of more than 80 km, are limited.

“When the United States shipped a third of its GMLERS inventory to Ukraine, as it did with the Javelins and Stingers, Ukraine received between 8,000 and 10,000,” a sufficient number for “a couple of months,” explains the CSIS Expert.

But Lockheed Martin currently produces just 5,000 of these high-precision missiles a year, and even if the US government has released funds to speed up that production, it will take the United States several years to replenish stocks, he adds.

A graffiti on a wall in Kyiv showing a Ukrainian soldier firing a spear that has become a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance (AFP - Sergei SUPINSKY)
A graffiti on a wall in Kyiv showing a Ukrainian soldier firing a spear that has become a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance (AFP – Sergei SUPINSKY)

Washington shipped about 8,500 missiles to Kyiv for Javelin, but the annual production of this armament symbol of the Ukrainian resistance is only 1,000 missiles.

The United States ordered them in May for $350 million from the Raytheon-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes them, but again, American stocks will take several years to replenish.

The US military shipped 880,000 155-caliber shells to Kyiv, or three-quarters of standard NATO ammunition shipped to Ukraine by all Western countries, according to the Pentagon.

“That’s probably close to the limit of what the United States is willing to give without risk to its own defense capabilities,” Cancian said. But many countries around the world manufacture the ammunition, and shipments to Ukraine are unlikely to stop, he adds.

US defense industry output is “accelerating,” US Defense Department Russia official Laura Cooper assured Tuesday that the United States would continue to help Ukraine “for as long as necessary.”


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