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Ammunition Production for Ukraine is Delayed Due to a Shortage of Gunpowder and Explosives in Europe


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The EU countries, which promised to increase the supply of shells for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, are experiencing great difficulties in increasing production. 

In order to produce many times more ammunition than before the war, they lack explosives and gunpowder. It is impossible to expand the production of these key components quickly, writes the Financial Times. Thus, the plan to supply Ukraine with a million shells, which should be enough for the Armed Forces of Ukraine for several months of the war, was under threat. Meanwhile, even the obligations already taken by Europe on the supply of ammunition do not satisfy Kiev: Ukrainian troops need up to 600,000 shells per month to successfully liberate the entire territory of the country, while in reality only 120,000 are available to them, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense told European partners .

Both Ukraine and Russia suffer from “shell hunger”

The fact that the Russian army is experiencing (or will soon begin to experience) a shortage of shells, Western intelligence and experts said last fall. During the summer offensive in the Donbass, the Russian Armed Forces spent too much ammunition: the army experienced an acute shortage of personnel, which it tried to neutralize with powerful artillery fire in the hope of capturing Ukrainian positions with small forces. This led to a rapid depletion of reserves. In the summer, the RF Armed Forces  spent up to 30 thousand shells per day, in winter the “shooting” dropped to 10 thousand. 

The production of shells in Russia is growing, but it is not known exactly at what pace. Before the war, according to experts, the country produced about two thousand shells a day, so in order to overcome the shortage (while maintaining tactics based on a large consumption of ammunition), it is necessary to increase production several times, if not an order of magnitude.

For Ukraine, the situation seems to be even worse. The Armed Forces of Ukraine still have hundreds of Soviet-made guns. NATO shells are not suitable for them, and most of the European stocks of Soviet calibers were transferred to Kyiv last year. Deliveries of NATO-made guns improved the situation only temporarily: in many countries of the alliance, stocks of shells were quickly depleted; production on the current scale is clearly not enough to cover the resulting deficit, and even more so in order to satisfy the growing demands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The West was not going to wage war relying on artillery as the main means of defeating the enemy; the doctrine of the alliance implied the use of aviation in this capacity, first of all.

NATO is trying to both increase production and  come up with tactics that would allow the Armed Forces of Ukraine to win by spending fewer shells. In the latter case, it will be necessary to sharply increase the supply of combat aircraft to Ukraine, and not only Soviet-made aircraft, but only those that the alliance is ready to transfer so far.

In any case, the increase in the air grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will take a long time, and the lack of shells may affect their combat capability in the near future and prevent their big offensive. Western military experts who visited Bakhmut in early March claim that “shell hunger” is one of the main reasons for the failure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the battle for the city.

Why can’t the West quickly increase production?

According to the Financial Times, the problem (at least in Europe) is the lack of basic materials for shells – gunpowder and explosives, as well as components for their production, for example, nitrocellulose. It is impossible to quickly increase the production of these materials, European gunsmiths say. The construction of factories for the production of these materials will take at least three years, according to manufacturers interviewed by the newspaper.

The shortage also affects the current production of a smaller volume of shells: for example, due to a lack of gunpowder, the price of shell production in Europe has increased by 20% since the beginning of the war. An ordinary 155 mm projectile costs already 850 euros.

For comparison, Wagner PMC owner Yevgeny Prigozhin says that a ton of ammunition costs him $50,000; with an average projectile weight of 50 kilograms, one projectile should cost about $2,500.  

Source : Meduza

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