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Investigation finds EU shell production capacity far below official statements

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 8, 2024 9:15 AM 1 min read
Unfinished shells wait to be prepared for painting at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant on April 12, 2023. (Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The EU's promises to deliver 155 mm artillery shells to Ukraine were not met due to "wishful thinking" and the fact that existing stocks may be "at least twice as modest as stated by high-ranking EU officials," RFE/RL Schemes investigative project reported on July 8.

The lackluster performance of the European defense industry became apparent when the EU failed on its promise to deliver 1 million artillery shells to Ukraine between March 2023 and 2024. After supplying only about half of the promised rounds, Brussels shifted the deadline to the end of 2024.

Journalists found that arms producers in Europe can produce about half as many shells as officials in Brussels claim and that so far, the EU has provided Kyiv with half as many shells as originally promised.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton, for example, claimed in June that EU manufacturers will be able to produce 1.7 million shells per year.

A senior source in the European arms industry, speaking to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said that "the current capacity is still only a third of that figure."

Other sources indicated that Europe's production capacity is between roughly 500,000 and 600,000 shells per year. Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in February that Ukraine needs 200,000 155 mm shells per month.

The European Commission commented that their assessment of the EU production capacity is based on "facts" and "takes into account current investments" in the industry, RFE/RL said.

An Estonian intelligence report from February 2024 estimated that Russia was able to supply as much as 3-4 million units of artillery ammunition to the front in 2023, in part through refurbishing Soviet stocks.

"It is almost certain that Western ammunition deliveries to Ukraine in 2024 will not be able to keep pace," and the gap "in available artillery ammunition between Ukraine and Russia is expected to widen even more in 2024," the report said.

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