An ammo handler at Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky prepares 155mm projectile rounds for repalletization in 2022.

An ammo handler at Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky prepares 155mm projectile rounds for repalletization in 2022. U.S. Army / Dori Whipple

The goal of 100K artillery shells per month is back in sight, Army says

The new supplemental renews the push to boost production sixfold since Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

The U.S. Army is on a path to triple its monthly production of 155mm shells following the passage of the Ukraine supplemental, its vice chief of staff said today. 

“With the supplemental that just thankfully passed last night, we’ll be at 100,000 rounds by next summer,” Gen. James Mingus said at an event hosted by think-tank CSIS. 

That’s more than three times the 30,000 shells that the service’s factories are expected to turn out this month, Mingus said, and will represent a sixfold increase since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Army officials have said reaching their 100,000-round goal depended on $3.1 billion requested in a previous version of the Ukraine supplemental. 

The service is expanding production facilities and planning new ones in Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas, Army acquisition chief Doug Bush said last year. Artillery shells are among the few munitions whose production is controlled by the U.S. government, not purchased from private contractors. 

Investments to a production facility in Texas “increased the throughput and the productivity of the number of shells by 83 percent,” said General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic in an earnings call Wednesday. General Dynamics operates artillery manufacturing plants on behalf of the Army. 

The ramp-up marks a sharp contrast to 155mm manufacturing in Europe, which is managed by private companies. European governments ordering shells for Ukraine must compete with non-European customers and cannot directly order manufacturers to expand or improve production facilities. 

In January, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the bloc would miss its goal of delivering one million 155mm rounds to Ukraine by March, and reset the estimated delivery date to the end of 2024. Rounds ordered today from European manufacturers take at least a year to get to Ukraine, according to Kusti Salm, Estonian defense ministry’s top civil servant. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in February that Ukraine was firing around 2,000 shells per day, while Russia was firing three times that amount. Ukraine uses a mix of NATO-designed 155mm and 105mm shells, plus Soviet-designed 152mm and 122mm shells. 

In testimony to Congress earlier this month, European Command chief Gen. Chris Cavoli said that Russia was outshooting Ukraine at a rate of five to one, and would soon outshoot Ukraine ten to one without further U.S. assistance.

Artillery shells will be part of a new $1 billion tranche of various types of military aid to Ukraine announced Wednesday by the White House. Officials did not say how much of that would go toward 155mm artillery rounds, which cost roughly $3,000 apiece. But if, say, one-quarter of the funds are devoted to artillery, the roughly 80,000 rounds that would buy would last Ukraine just six weeks—and that only at their current reduced rate of fire.

Correction: An earlier version of this report gave the wrong rank for Gen. Mingus.