The United States is forecast to have difficulty supplying weapons to Ukraine because it cannot produce enough ammunition to meet the needs of the Eastern European country.
The United States is the largest arms supplier to Ukraine since Russia began a “special military operation” in the Eastern European country on February 24, the United States has supplied Ukrainian Army with a large amount of weapons and military equipment, worth up to 16.8 billion USD.
However, according to military expert Mark Cancian at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the US weapons stockpile is approaching dangerous levels because the country still needs to stockpile ammunition for training and protection of the country. Filling these arsenals could take years.
According to a defense official, through the war in Ukraine, the United States has learned that the amount of weapons needed to sustain hostilities on a large scale far exceeds the country’s previous estimates.
U.S. defense enterprises had to significantly reduce production in the 1990s due to the sharp cuts in the country’s defense budget following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now, the US government must convince the above companies to reopen production lines that have been closed for many years and restore production of some weapons such as the Stinger anti-aircraft missile – which has already been closed. They stopped production from 2020.
Some US-aided weapons, such as the Javelin anti-tank missile, have become a symbol of the Ukrainian war after the weapon proved highly-effective in the battle to defend Kyiv. Another product that can be mentioned is the mobile rocket artillery system, HIMARS, a weapon that has played an important role in Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive campaigns.
But stockpiles of ammunition for the US Military HIMARS system – which includes GPS-guided missile ammunition with a range of up to 80 km, known as GMLRS – are rapidly running out.
“If the US sends one-third of the remaining HIMARS missiles in its arsenal, as is the case with Javelin and Stinger missiles, Ukraine will receive between 8,000 and 10,000 missiles,enough to use for a few months. However, the US will have no alternative if the above reserves are exhausted, “said Mr. Cancian, who used to work for the US government’s weapons procurement program.
“The ammunition production capacity for the HIMARS system is 5,000 missiles per year. While the US government has been working with defense businesses to increase capacity and allocate more funds for this, the process will take a long time, even years to complete,” said Mr. Cancian.
The US government has supplied about 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. However, the production capacity of this weapon is only 1,000 missiles per year.
Although the US government ordered $350 million worth of new Javelin missiles in May, the stockpile of these missiles will take years to fill.
According to data from the US Department of Defense, the United States has supplied more than 800,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery shells to Ukraine, accounting for three-quarters of the amount supplied by Western countries since the Ukrainian conflict broke out.
“The number of shells the US provides is likely to have reached its limit because the country still has to meet its national security needs,” Cancian said.
The US currently produces about 14,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery shells per month, but the Pentagon says it will increase that to 36,000 rounds per month this year. The increase in capacity would increase the number of 155 mm shells the United States produces to 432,000 rounds per year, just over half the amount of ammunition that the country has transferred to Ukraine.
According to Professor Dave Des Roches, a lecturer at the US National Defense University, if there is not enough ammunition left for the 155 mm cannons, the USA will have to switch to using 105 mm caliber artillery systems with a lower range and less firepower.
“This is a serious problem. Because the war in Ukraine is basically an artillery duel and the advantage of range is very important,” Mr. Des Roches said.
On October 4, Laura Cooper, a senior US defense official confirmed that the production process will continue to accelerate in the near future.
“The United States will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine and provide the country with the security and defense support it needs to defend itself, no matter how long the conflict lasts,” Cooper said.
In addition to being rapidly depleted due to the high frequency of use by the Ukrainian military, weapons and ammunition aided by the US and Western countries are also the top targets targeted by Russian forces.
On October 4, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Russia destroyed five warehouses containing weapons and ammunition in the Torskoye, Malinovka and Zhelannoye regions of the Donetsk region.
In addition, Russian forces also destroyed an weapons depot and an aircraft repair shop in the city of Zaporozhye, destroyed 15 tons of ammunition, including missiles of the HIMARS system, and destroyed 2 Mi-24 helicopters of the Ukrainian Air Force, TASS reports.
Since the outbreak of the conflict, the Russian armed forces have attacked many Ukrainian weapons and ammunition storage facilities, causing significant damage to the country’s military and placing a heavy burden on the states. The West must aid to make up for the above losses.