There is a dire shortage of ammunition on the front lines in Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers are only able to fire two grenades per day, instead of the usual 20 to 30. Meanwhile, the promised delivery of one million 155mm rounds from Europe is being delayed. Furthermore, it does not appear that the ammunition will arrive anytime soon. Could Ukraine be left without bullets due to a false promise?
On March 20, 2023, the Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers of the European Union reached an agreement: the Union would invest 2 billion euros in the European defence industry. A significant portion of that amount is intended to provide much-needed ammunition to Ukraine, while another part will be used to replenish its own ammunition reserves and scale up ammunition production.
The details of the agreement were to be worked out later, but as experts delve into the matter, it appears that the European Union may have overestimated its capabilities. The Union promised one million 155mm rounds to Ukraine, which are used for weapons such as howitzers, capable of hitting targets at long range. However, now everything indicates that the EU may not be able to keep its promise simply because there is not enough ammunition that can be produced.
The Soviet Union developed and utilized several main artillery calibres during its existence. Some of the notable ones include:
- 76.2 mm Divisional Field Gun M1902 and M1936 (F-22): These were widely used as field guns in the Soviet Red Army during World War II. The M1902 was an early design, while the M1936 (F-22) was an improved version with better range and accuracy.
- 85 mm Divisional Gun D-44: This was a towed artillery piece used by the Soviet Union after World War II. It had a powerful 85 mm caliber and was designed to provide direct and indirect fire support for Soviet infantry and tank units.
- 100 mm BS-3 Field Gun: This was a heavy field gun used by the Soviet Union during World War II. It had a 100 mm calibre and was known for its long range and high penetrating power. It was used against enemy fortifications, tanks, and other targets.
- 122 mm D-30 Howitzer: This was a widely used towed howitzer in the Soviet Union and other countries. It had a 122 mm calibre and was known for its high rate of fire and mobility. It was used for both direct and indirect fire support, and saw service in various conflicts around the world.
- 152 mm M1938 (M-10) Howitzer: This was a heavy howitzer used by the Soviet Union during World War II. It had a 152 mm calibre and was known for its long range and heavy hitting power. It was used for indirect fire support, including against enemy fortifications and tanks.
These are just some of the main artillery calibres used by the Soviet Union during its existence. The Soviet Union had a diverse and extensive artillery arsenal, with various calibers and types of artillery used for different purposes and in different roles.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg already warned in February that “the current pace of ammunition consumption by Ukraine is many times higher than our current production rate.” Currently, the European Union can only produce “only” 300,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition per year. According to estimates, the delivery would therefore only be ready in 2027, four years late.
For the United States, delivering such a large quantity of military equipment is not a problem. The country has much larger stocks and a well-developed defense industry. In Europe, however, the situation is different, and that realization seems to be gradually sinking in. “It is possible that we may not be able to achieve the set goal,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, one of the strongest advocates for aid to Ukraine.
To achieve the set goal, the European Union must rely on its largest defence companies. So far, the EU has identified 15 manufacturers in 11 member states that can produce artillery ammunition. Nammo is one of the largest among them. The company is partially owned by the Norwegian government and partially owned by a defence company, which in turn is owned by Finland. Currently, the company is working on an order for 35,000 155mm rounds, a substantial number, but it falls far short of the promised quantities. Moreover, the company estimates that the shipment will not be ready for another three years.
The factory expansion is an option. They are indeed doing that. However, the new, larger factory will only be ready in 2024. And then a new problem arises: the limited power supply of the Norwegian electricity grid. Tech giant TikTok is moving a data centre to the vicinity of the Nammo factory soon. Data centres consume a lot of electricity, which puts the power supply of the factory at risk.