Long-range missiles from down under: U.S. plans to produce vital weapons for Ukraine in allied nations

HIMARS
HIMARS

The U.S. is gearing up to manufacture crucial weaponry for Ukraine, setting up shop in allied countries, with its first foreign factory in Australia, which will be dedicated to crafting guided long-range missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported on March 13.

Slated to be built at a military base on the outskirts of Sydney, known as Building 215, this initiative comes as the U.S. grapples with a rapidly depleting ammunition stockpile, thanks to heavy usage in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Read also: Ukraine and U.S. forge strategic partnership for joint arms production

From missiles, including GMLRS for the HIMARS rocket systems, to artillery shells, the American industrial base is struggling to keep up, prompting the Biden Administration to scramble to establish multiple production lines overseas for these critically important armaments. It is proving to be no small feat.

European manufacturers are also in the mix, saying that they need long-term orders from governments to feel confident about incrasing their production capabilities.

Lockheed, the company behind GMLRS, currently manufactures them at a single facility in Camden, Arkansas. The company is planning to bring six Australian engineers to become familiar with the process. The plan is to ship semi-assembled missile parts from the U.S. to Australia, where will undergo final assembly at Building 215.

Read also: Australia and France cooperating to ramp up munition production for Ukraine

Australian officials are looking to have a trial batch of about ten Australian-assembled GMLRS to be tested by the end of 2025. By the close of 2030, they are looking to be able to produce thousands of rockets annually, possibly including at sites other than Building 215.

On the Ukrainian front, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov has penned a letter to his EU counterparts, highlighting concerns about the ammuntion imbalance with Russia, which has a three-to-one advantage over Ukraine in this area. The weapons shortage in Ukraine is only going to get more acute.

Umerov's called on EU states to deliver their promises of providing Ukraine with a million artillery shells, a pledge made last spring and intended to be delivered within a year. Ukraine needs two hundred thousand 155-mm shells monthly, while Russia is able to potentially double that amount, particularly as it is able to rely on large weapons shipments received from North Korea.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has acknowledged a shortfall in delivering on its commitments by March, with the European Commission now saying it may be able to meet that target by the end of 2024.

Read also: No one country can produce enough ammunition for current intensity of warfare

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