Shortage of gunpowder and explosives threatens EU arms supplies to Ukraine

According to a report in the Financial Times, defense industry officials and officials warn that shortages of gunpowder and TNT are delaying the shift to “large-scale war production” and thus delaying arms supplies to Ukraine.

EU countries’ plans to mass-produce arms for Ukraine are reportedly being hampered by shortages of gunpowder and explosives. Opposite of Financial Times industry insiders feared efforts to increase shell production could be delayed by up to three years. Scarce supplies of gunpowder, plastic explosives and TNT indicate the industry will be unable to meet expected EU orders for Ukraine quickly, no matter how much money is poured into the problem, officials and manufacturers said .

“The fundamental problem is that the European defense industry is not capable of large-scale war production,” said a German official.

Drastic rearmament: EU Commission wants to increase ammunition production

Drastic rearmament: EU Commission wants to increase ammunition production

The EU is attempting to meet Kiev’s war hardware needs by pumping money into the defense sector, particularly into the production of 155mm artillery. Since on the one hand the supply of the Ukrainian armed forces, but also the national arsenal of weapons is to be maintained, there is an urgent need for grenades. But manufacturers, industry officials and EU officials warn that increased demand could push prices higher, which have already risen by a fifth in the last year.

“It is very difficult to increase the production of artillery ammunition, especially heavy, large-caliber ammunition, in a short period of time,” said Jiří Hynek, Chairman of the Union of Defense and Security Industries of the Czech Republic.:

“Creating a new artillery factory is very easy, but how can you produce more artillery shells without raw materials?”

The report of Financial Times appeared in the run-up to a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels on Monday, at which an ammunition package was decided. According to this, one million artillery shells are to be delivered to Ukraine in the next 12 months. According to the plans, around two billion euros in EU funds will be mobilized for this purpose. According to defense industry officials, however, Europe has a limited supply of explosives such as gunpowder, TNT and nitrocellulose, which are necessary for the manufacture of grenades. Bottlenecks exist primarily for explosives, which are scarce throughout Europe:

“It’s not possible to increase nitrocellulose production in a short period of time… Europe doesn’t have any major producers of the raw materials we need. If I want to increase gunpowder production, it will probably take me three years,” Hynek said.

Explosia, a Czech state-owned manufacturer and one of Europe’s largest suppliers of explosives to munitions factories, told the Financial Timesthat the production of propellant charges for 155mm artillery is “full capacity” and will not be increased until 2026.

“Investments are underway to further increase our production capacity, but this is a three-year project, not a few months’ task,” said Martin Vencl, the company’s spokesman.

Asterisks in the crisis: armaments company Rheinmetall expects extra billions from the Ukraine war

Asterisks in the crisis: armaments company Rheinmetall expects extra billions from the Ukraine war

This week, the Romanian government said it was in talks with American and South Korean companies about building a gunpowder factory in the country. The last such factory closed in 2004. Antonio Caro, general manager of Fábrica Muniiciones de Granada, one of the two Spanish manufacturers of 155mm artillery, explained that it took four to five months to ramp up production because of the difficulty in sourcing raw materials and components.

“Our main problem is the raw materials,” said Caro. “The supply of ammunition is very tight worldwide because all factories, like us, are working at 100 percent capacity”:

“There aren’t that many factories [zur Herstellung von Materialien wie TNT und Nitrozellulose] in Europe, and they’re also at 100 percent capacity, so we have to look around in India, Korea and other countries that are further away,” says Caro.

Gianclaudio Torlizzi, an adviser to Italy’s defense ministry, agreed, stating, “We need to find new sources of supply from countries we haven’t approached before.” Torlizzi continues: “Every European country wants to protect its availability of raw materials”. According to Caro, the cost of raw materials has “doubled and in some cases tripled”. These increases and the surge in demand have resulted in higher prices for ammunition, although the increase has been less pronounced. A typical grenade costs EUR 850 today, around 20 percent more than before the Ukraine war, Caro explained.

More on the subject – Stoltenberg calls for higher arms production for Ukraine: “Our supplies are running out”

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