As part of the European Union’s ammunition procurement program, 480,000 artillery shells “have been either delivered (to Ukraine) or are on the pipeline,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Nov. 30.
The EU will be able to produce one million ammunition rounds per year starting from 2024, von der Leyen added, speaking at the European Defense Agency’s annual conference.
“This would have been unimaginable just two years ago. And it already marks a massive step forward for our defense cooperation.”
Russia's war against Ukraine has demonstrated that the EU’s defense industry must produce more not only to meet Ukraine’s needs but also to cater to its own deterrence and defense system, von der Leyen said.
“The war in Ukraine consumes more hardware than any other war in recent history. Russia has fired 10 million shells in a year. Ukraine consumes 10,000 drones per month. This means that the European defense industry must mobilize too,” she told European defense officials, lawmakers, and industry representatives.
“The reality is that we didn’t have sufficient ammunition and weapons available. No large stocks and a lack of spare capacity. Because in peacetime, we thought we didn't need them. This needed to change.”
According to von der Leyen, the European Commission will present a new ‘European Defence Industrial Strategy’ early next year.
European and Ukrainian officials acknowledged earlier this month that the EU was behind schedule to deliver a million artillery shells to Ukraine. According to a plan approved in March, the bloc aimed to do it within one year.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blamed “the poor state of the European defense industry” for the delay.
The bloc's plan to ramp up shell production to boost Ukraine's artillery capabilities has been plagued by bureaucracy and protectionism of individual countries, an investigation by the Kyiv Independent and its partners revealed.
Ukraine's need for munition supplies becomes ever more pressing as Russia is boosting its defense budget for 2024 and was reportedly able to secure over one million shells from North Korea, while political infighting in Washington causes cutbacks in U.S. military support for Kyiv.