Ukraine trails Russia badly in shell fire rate, access to resupplies

By bne IntelliNews February 5, 2024

Ukraine's defence capabilities are under increasing strain due to a significant artillery ammunition shortfall. Russia is already firing five times more shells a day than Ukraine and producing at least twice what the EU can make a year, according to a report by Euromaidan Press on February 4

And Ukraine’s firing rate is falling, nearly half of what it was a year ago, according to a letter from Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov to European Union counterparts obtained by Bloomberg.

Ukraine's troops are now firing a maximum of 2,000 155mm shells daily, a stark contrast to Russia's usage and less than a third of the amount, highlighting a growing disparity in firepower. This reduction from 3,600 shells per day fired by Ukraine last year underscores the escalating demands of the prolonged conflict.

Due to Europe’s limited production ability, Ukraine has already scaled back its demands for more ammo. In the March 2023 letter, former Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov assessed Ukraine’s needs at a minimum firing 11,800 per day (354,000 a month, or 4.2mn a year) while nearly 20,000 were needed for using the available artillery systems to full capacity (600,000 a month, or 7.2mn a year). At the time, Ukraine was firing 3,600 rounds a day against Russia’s 10,000.

In his recent letter to Brussels Umerov is now only asking for 6,600 a day (200,000 rounds per month, or 2.4mn 155mm rounds a year) to gain a strategic advantage, a figure echoed by Estonia's Ministry of Defence.

In comparison, Russian production capabilities are projected to yield 2.1mn 152mm shells in 2024 alone, supplemented by substantial imports from North Korea estimated at 4.7mn rounds for the year, bringing Russia's potential total to approximately 6.8mn rounds a year.

This imbalance is further compounded by the cost disparities in ammunition production, with a 155mm round costing Western countries between $5,000 and $6,000, in stark contrast to the $600 production cost for Russia's 152mm shells. Despite Ukraine's efforts to ramp up domestic production of the cheaper 155mm rounds – production increased ten-fold in 2023, but still remains insignificant – the accuracy and reliability of Russian and North Korean ammunition remain concerns, as the 155mm shells are a lot more accurate than Russia’s 152mm rounds which are fired from outdated guns.

The European Union's pledge to deliver 1mn shells to Ukraine by March 2024 has failed and the EU recently said it will only deliver half that amount. Despite this, EU production capacities are expected to increase, with promises of 1.1mn rounds by the end of 2024 and future projections reaching up to 2mn rounds in 2025, Politico reported.

Key European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, have called for more effort and collective military support for Ukraine. Germany has provided the most military support to Ukraine of any European country, but has baulked at taking on more of the financial load for increasing arms production.

“The EU and its member states must renew their efforts and step up their military support,” the leaders wrote, and “it must continue to be a collective effort.”

Germany, which has spent more than any other EU country in military commitments to Ukraine, is increasingly calling on other EU states to do their part.

“The arms deliveries for Ukraine planned so far by the majority of EU member states are by all means too small,” Scholz said in January. “We need higher contributions.”

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