The U.S. is planning to ramp up production of 155-millimeter artillery shells to 100,000 per month by 2025 in an effort to refill the military’s stockpiles and sustain demand from allies and partners like Ukraine.
Following Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. and its allies have ramped up security assistance for the Ukrainian military through existing stockpiles and increased production. One of the most in-demand items is 155 mm artillery, which the U.S. and NATO allies use and is being integrated into Ukraine’s armed forces as a replacement for Soviet-era artillery – but U.S. and European production has lagged Ukraine’s consumption to date.
"We’re going to be at 100,000 per month in 2025. We were at 14,000 per month 6 or 8 months ago, we are now at 28,000 a month today," Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s weapons acquisition chief, said at a conference on Friday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted in February that the "current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production" which "puts our defense industries under strain."
Ukraine has consumed 155 mm artillery at a rate of 6,000 to 8,000 shells per day at times this year, according to comments in April by Ukrainian parliamentarian Oleksandra Ustinova, who serves on the country’s wartime oversight committee.
The U.S. and allies supporting Ukraine have provided it with 155 mm artillery systems in part to reduce its military’s reliance on Soviet-era munitions that aren’t produced in the U.S. and Europe. Transitioning to NATO standard munitions allows the U.S. and its NATO allies in Europe to supply Ukraine through existing stockpiles and from ongoing production.
NATO’s efforts to increase production have been hampered by higher prices for equipment and ammunition according to comments made Saturday by Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, who chairs NATO’s military committee. "Right now, we are paying more and more for exactly the same," Bauer said.
According to a Pentagon fact sheet released in late July, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with over 190 155 mm howitzers, more than 2 million 155 mm artillery rounds and over 7,000 precision-guided artillery rounds of that caliber in the time since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. The U.S. has also provided over 14,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery-deployed anti-armor mines to Ukraine.
Efforts by the U.S. and allies to expand production of key munitions come not only amid efforts to support Ukraine and deter Russian aggression elsewhere but also to deter a potential move by China to invade Taiwan.
Earlier this year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a 44-page report that warned U.S. stockpiles of critical weapons systems are low. In particular, it noted that, in the event of a conflict between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, the U.S. "would likely run out of some munitions – such as long-range, precision-guided munitions – in less than one week in the event of Taiwan Strait conflict."
It added that the war in Ukraine has "exposed serious deficiencies in the U.S. defense industrial base and serves as a stark reminder that a protracted conflict is likely to be an industrial war that requires a defense industry able to manufacture enough munitions, weapons systems and materiel to replace depleted stockpiles."
The CSIS report flagged inventories of 155 mm howitzers and 155 mm artillery rounds as being "low" while the inventories of Excalibur precision-guided 155 mm rounds were "medium."
Reuters contributed to this report.