Since February, the war in Ukraine has offered the grim spectacle of a high-intensity conflict in which artillery is decisive and whose outcome could be determined by one essential logistical element: ammunition stocks.
The Ukrainian and Russian armies are especially hungry for all kinds of projectiles, from assault rifle bullets to 155mm rounds and precision missilesand they are immersed in a war of usury of ammunition, as well as with soldiers and equipment.
The goal is to outlast the enemy.
“That’s the topic of the moment”, confirmed a senior European official who asked to remain anonymous. “It is a matter of flows and actions (…). What characterizes a high-intensity conflict is the extremely high consumption of ammunition of any caliber,” he added.
As for projectiles, for example, according to a report by the British RUSI institute, “Russia fires approximately 20,000 152mm shells a day, compared to Ukraine’s 6,000”.
But the protagonists do not have the same means. Russia relies on production distributed throughout its territory, with a controlled communications network.
While Ukraine only resists thanks to the factories of Western countries.
In this conflict, concentrated in the Ukrainian east, the logistical advantage belongs to the Russians, “because their (supply) lines are shorter than those of the Ukrainians, whose supplies come from the west, or even from outside the country,” he explained. the European charge.
Another advantage for the Russians is that their production is adapted to their weapons, while Ukraine juggles a multiplicity of weapons and ammunition of diverse origin, where Soviet models coexist with more modern Western weapons.
“Modern heavy weapons deliveries complicate things for Ukraine rather than help,” said Alexandre Khramchikhin, an analyst at the Moscow Military and Political Institute.
The RUSI report also considers that the Ukrainian rebound cannot be based on “a piecemeal delivery of a large number of different equipment fleets.” Instead, the authors say, allies “should rationalize their support around a small number of systems.”
As for guided munitions, ballistic or hypersonic missiles, Moscow seems to manage its reserves sparingly.according to some analysts, who point out that the latter had been mistakenly given as exhausted weeks ago.
In relation to artillery shells, “the Russian defense industry has significant production capacity”, according to RUSI.
On this segment of shells, Philippe Gros, a former member of French military intelligence, highlighted the difficulties on the Ukrainian side.
“If we imagine that the Ukrainian artillery doubles its volume” firing “for example, 10,000 shells a day, we can think that the United States, if it manages to effectively reactivate its industry” it can “sustain a few more months of operations at this maximum intensity”he told the agency AFP Gros, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). But that conditional “if” is important.
The ammunition war is also being waged in the factoriesthose of Russia mobilized by President Vladimir Putin and those of the West, officially non-belligerent, that have not entered a war economy.
Soviet stocks depleted
On the part of the Atlantic Alliance, “stocks are running out and factories are not producing in large quantities,” said Vassilii Kachin, a researcher at the HSE University in Moscow. “The idea that NATO has unlimited reserves (…) is false, even with the United States. The productivity of the Russian war industry is greater than that of Europe.”
According to experts, stocks of weapons of Soviet origin in Eastern Europe are almost exhausted.
And in the West, the conflict is straining national economies.
The French Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the delivery of 18 Caesar truck-mounted 155mm guns will reduce its stock of this equipment by almost a quarter, and it takes 18 months to make one, according to its producer, the Nexter group. .
In an interview given to the AFPNATO Assistant Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said he hoped the industry had the “ability to provide the necessary equipment.”
“It is a matter of active concern, of consultation, of creative solution”, he added. “There is an effort to increase capacity and creativity on the part of providers and so far it has worked very well,” she said.
On the other hand, Russian factories “have been working day and night since the start of hostilities”Khramchikhin argued.
Moscow and kyiv regularly claim the destruction of an arsenal of enemy weapons.
The Ukrainians “are capable of attacking high-value targets, such as ammunition depots, which will complicate things for the Russians in the coming weeks,” said Janes, the British private military intelligence agency.
(With information from AFP / By Didier Lauras)
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