TechUkraine faces critical ammunition shortage amid ongoing conflict

Ukraine faces critical ammunition shortage amid ongoing conflict

Ukrainian soldiers - illustrative photo
Ukrainian soldiers - illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Images | 2023 Anadolu Agency

11:28 AM EDT, March 18, 2024

The American newspaper "Washington Post," citing two Ukrainian officials, reported that Ukraine is rapidly depleting its ammunition supply. By the end of this month, the country could run out of anti-aircraft missiles needed for city defense. This scarcity could severely limit the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defense systems. An expert shared, "It is hard to believe their stock [ed. missiles] will drop to a critical level within two weeks, as reported."

During a security conference, Ukrainian officials shared alarming reports with the "Washington Post" about dwindling ammunition supplies. They highlighted that the current strategy of attempting to shoot down four out of five Russian missiles might have to shift towards targeting only one out of five. This adjustment, they believe, will have a "significant impact on Ukrainian urban centers."

Is Ukraine's ammunition supply dwindling?

A senior advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the American newspaper, "People do not understand how dire the situation is on the front right now. Morale and momentum are low. Young men fear being mobilized only to die from a scarcity of weapons." He also mentioned that without new aid from the United States, significant Russian territorial gains could be expected by summer.

Szymon Tetera, editor-in-chief of "Aviation" magazine, in an interview with WP Tech, noted, "The exact number of missiles Ukraine has is top-secret information." He added, "I doubt the journalists of Washington Post have access to this data." Tetera suggests that the two officials quoted might be seeking to secure additional supplies, especially as Ukraine faces increasing pressure regarding ammunition and military supplies. Meanwhile, a $60 billion American foreign aid bill, proposing support for Ukraine, is stalled in Congress.

Tetera also mentioned it's improbable that all anti-aircraft defense systems are running low on ammunition at the same rate. "The critical situation may pertain to certain Soviet-origin systems, for which the market has significantly dwindled, and NATO countries do not manufacture compatible missiles." However, he acknowledged the grave supply issues for systems like the 9K37 Buk. On the brighter side, Western countries continue to supply ammunition for their own production air defense systems, including the most effective modern ones.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the immense need for ammunition, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg describing it as "a battle of ammunition." Kyiv regularly requests missile shipments from the West, but supplies and production capabilities are limited. For instance, Ukraine reportedly needs about 200,000 155 mm caliber artillery shells per month, according to experts from the Center for Eastern Studies in early February.

For comparison, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, announced during his January visit to Estonia that by the end of 2024, the European Union aims to produce over 1.3 million artillery shells, significantly boosting production capacities in 2025, with a substantial portion intended for Ukraine. However, Europe must also consider its own arsenal needs.

Defence One reports that the United States aims to increase its production of 155 mm caliber artillery shells from 28,000 per month (as of October 2023) to 37,000 by April 2024 and 60,000 by October 2024. Projected further increases include producing about 75,000 shells in April 2025 and 100,000 by October 2025. Yet, these projections underscore that the issue extends beyond just the 155 mm caliber artillery shells.

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