The war in Ukraine threatens to deplete the Western arsenal

The West faces the risk of running out of stockpiles when maintaining the flow of weapons to Ukraine, while taking a long time to replenish.

The influx of weapons, military vehicles and ammunition that the United States and its European allies pour into Ukraine gives the country’s military the ability to confront Russia. Western experts say Ukraine depends on a stable supply of weapons from outside to maintain its resistance capacity.

However, the West is facing a growing problem that threatens the stability of arms flows to Ukraine. Much of the weapons they aid to Kiev are drawn from combat-ready stockpiles or storage facilities. After more than 6 months of fierce fighting in Ukraine, the reserves in these strategic depots are running out.

Wall Street Journal Earlier this week it was reported that the majority of US military aid to Ukraine “come directly from US reserves, depleting the arsenal built to respond to unexpected threats to Washington”.

A US defense official said the amount of 155 mm artillery shells in the inventory was “uncomfortably low” after the country provided 860,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers deploy M777 howitzers in the Donbass region on July 18.  Photo: Reuters.

Ukrainian soldiers deploy M777 howitzers in the Donbass region on July 18. Image: Reuters.

The governments, militaries and financial institutions of NATO member states are debating how much supplies they want to give Ukraine, as well as the impact that comes with a depleted stockpile.

Trevor Taylor, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said that the biggest challenge for Western countries backing Ukraine is signing new contracts with defense contractors to supplement resources. supply, especially after Ukraine began to launch a large-scale counterattack to regain control of many areas.

“The offensive phase requires more ammunition and weapons than the defensive phase,” said Taylor, adding that two important factors to maintain the momentum of the attack are the ammunition consumption rate of the units. units and the ability to supplement and resupply them.

According to RUSI estimates, Ukrainian artillery regiments fire about 6,000 rounds a day. However, even the simplest shells take a long time to make. The more sophisticated the weapon, the longer the wait, making planning for a supply crisis all the more important.

Nicholas Drummond, a former British Army officer and defense industry expert, believes the supply problem lies with politicians and military commanders who have adopted a post-Cold War pacifist mindset for too long.

“The Russia-Ukraine war has revealed years of underinvestment in the defense industry, especially in ammunition storage for combat,” Drummond said. “Many people think that the hostilities will not end quickly and worse, if Russia escalates, NATO troops may have to step in. So we are working very hard to build up our arsenal of aid and your backup”.

Ukrainian soldiers operate a CAESAR cannon delivered by France.  Photo: Defense Ministry of Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers operate a CAESAR cannon delivered by France. Image: BQP Ukraine.

America’s stockpile of weapons is dwindling, prompting the administration of President Joe Biden to promote production of Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, in order to resupply the US military and possibly deliver weapons. This is for Ukraine.

Restarting artillery production in the US is faster than with complex weapons like rockets and missiles, but can take up to 18 months from order to delivery. Meanwhile, British arms companies can take up to two years to restart production lines, depending on the complexity of the weapon.

RUSI’s Taylor estimated that during the Cold War, NATO countries’ militaries had stockpiles of ammunition sufficient for combat for three weeks. With nuclear weapons being used after less than three weeks of total conflict, the defense supply chains of many NATO member states, including the UK, are narrowed to fit the above assessment.

Mr. Taylor said that despite the lack of depth in the reserve system, Britain has so far provided Ukraine with military aid worth $2.64 billion, including 5,000 New Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons (NLAW). , 400,000 rounds of rifle rounds with M109 self-propelled howitzers, Javelin anti-tank missiles, helmets, bulletproof armor, Wolfhound and Husky light armor.

However, the variety of weapons that the West transfers to Ukraine is causing problems with training, maintenance and resupply. In its July report, RUSI said that the difficulty in military aid to Ukraine is that “NATO weapons are not highly standardized, artillery from many countries has completely different maintenance requirements, as well as use launchers, detonators, and even different types of ammunition.”

“The current approach of countries is to individually aid each battery, but it quickly turns into a logistical nightmare for the Ukrainian armed forces, as each battery requires training, maintenance, and training. separate maintenance and logistics,” the RUSI report reads.

Meanwhile, the Russian military has enough ammunition to last several years, according to RUSI estimates. Russian forces fire up to 20,000 rounds a day, more than three times that of Ukraine. Russia also uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and radar jammers, helping to increase the effectiveness of raids on Ukrainian military positions.

Ukraine's HIMARS rockets move on a road in Zaporizhzhia province in this photo released on July 4.  Photo: Reuters.

Ukraine’s HIMARS rockets move on a road in Zaporizhzhia province in this photo released on July 4. Image: Reuters.

Expert Drummond said that the delay in the delivery of items such as chips and control parts affects the production progress of high-tech weapons that the West transfers to Ukraine, especially the M31 rocket for the Rocket Artillery Complex. High Mobility (HIMARS).

Ukraine received 16 HIMARS batteries and a number of MRLS rockets and used them to attack Russian positions, causing a lot of damage. Russia is looking to hunt to destroy these weapons as well as the associated ammunition.

Western experts say that the Western arms supply chain to Ukraine has been more stable recently, but counter-attacks like Ukraine’s in Kherson province could reveal bottlenecks in the flow of weapons from the West. West, can significantly affect the military situation.

Nguyen Tien (Theo Telegraph)

Leave a Comment