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Shelling out: US Army on road to 100,000 rounds per month of 155 mm ammo

Workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant prepare 155 mm artillery rounds to be filled as a part of the load, assemble, and pack operation. (US Army)

It has been more than a year since the US Army announced its ramp-up of 155 mm ammunition was under way. Now, the Pentagon has to find a way to more than double its production output by the end of the year as the war in Ukraine marches on.

The 155 mm artillery round is fired by several weapons that see heavy usage in Ukraine, and one estimate – cited by the European Union's (EU's) European Parliament – puts soldiers in the field going through as many as 7,000 shells per day. Delays in US congressional appropriations have hit the Pentagon just as the army was getting its production ramped up.

“Without USAI [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative], we're not able to sustain the same levels of provision of capability to Ukraine,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander told reporters in a January 2024 briefing.

From the beginning, the US Army has said production for the 155 mm could not increase overnight. The production ramp-up has at times been compared to a similar production overhaul during the Second World War. “They, of course, were making more simple equipment – that also took about a year to 18 months to hit the ramp-up,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Doug Bush told reporters in August 2023.

The service has made progress, but “we have a long way to go, and this year is absolutely critical”, Bush said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event on 5 February.

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