This 2015 photo shows a worker producing 155mm artillery shells at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Okla.

This 2015 photo shows a worker producing 155mm artillery shells at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Okla. U.S. Army

US to Sextuple 155mm Production, Improve Arms Factories

Some $1.45 billion will be spent to better produce artillery rounds, over a million of which have been sent to Ukraine.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama—The U.S. will double monthly production of 155mm artillery shells to 24,000 by year’s end and increase it sixfold within five years, Army Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo said today.  

The Pentagon will spend some $1.45 billion to upgrade production facilities to better arm Ukraine and replenish U.S. stocks, Camarillo said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium here.

The Army is also boosting production of Javelin anti-tank missiles and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GMLRS, he said.

Production of Javelin missiles will more than double to 330 a month, and production of launchers will double to 41 a month, Camarillo said. It will cost $349 million to add factory lines, purchase equipment, and hire second shifts, he said. 

Ukraine’s army used Javelins extensively in the early phases of Russia’s invasion; they helped to blunt the armored thrust towards Kyiv. The weapon became well known as a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance, popularized by the “St. Javelin” meme that depicts a religious figure cradling the launcher. 

The Army is also upping monthly GMLRS production from 566 missiles to 1,110 by 2026, Camarillo said. The 70-kilometer-plus missile has been used in high-profile strikes on Russian forces since it first arrived in Ukraine last November.

Overall, the U.S. is investing over $2 billion this year in industrial facilities used to manufacture weapons and ammunition. Camarillo said the projects were awarded and funded in “rapid” time by Congress. The funds are part of a 15-year, $18 billion plan to modernize government-owned weapons and munitions facilities. 

Army production of 155mm shells appeared to be slightly ahead of its past estimates. In April, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the U.S. was planning to manufacture 20,000 155mm rounds per month by spring, not the 24,000 that Camarillo said. 

Still, it’s unclear whether the increase in U.S. production can meet Ukraine’s needs and its own. 

The U.S. has already sent 1,074,000 155mm rounds to Ukraine, which is burning though as many as 143,000 rounds a month, according to research by Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Even with the planned funding, some hard limits remain for U.S. production, according to Camarillo and Doug Bush, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology. At an Army budget hearing earlier in March, Camarillo said that production of Javelins was at the “maximum.” 

Bush said a lack of machine tools was holding back production of munitions. 

“These machines are the size of buildings. You don’t just go buy it from a parking lot somewhere,” Bush said.