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James Cruz
James Cruz

Manufacture Of Artillery Ammunition



In February 2021, Rheinmetall Denel Munition has formalized a ten-year agreement with Northrop Grumman to develop ammunition technology for future artillery operations. The agreement focuses on precision-guided enhanced range artillery ammunition solutions by fitting 155mm artillery rounds with an integrated M1156 precision guidance kit (PGK).




Manufacture of artillery ammunition



In January 2021, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Pty) Ltd received an order worth EUR 25 million to deliver conventional and extended-range artillery shells of the Assegai family (Base Bleed and V-LAP) to an undisclosed NATO customer.


Congress has stepped up. Since August, alone, Scranton and its sister-facility in nearby Wilkes-Barre have received more than $420 million in federal funding for a new building, additional equipment and improved automation that the Army hopes will boost production rates. The flood of money is a welcome turn for the Scranton plant, which was first constructed in 1908 by the DL&W Railroad as a steam locomotive repair shop. The Army acquired the property in 1951 at the onset of the Korean War and converted the facility to manufacture artillery shells.


On Nov. 23, JPEO A&A and ACC-Rock Island awarded a new task order to General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems to build a new 155 mm artillery metal parts production line in Garland, Texas, that will utilize free-flow forming technology, which delivers flexible, cost-effective and precise metal forming with higher machine speeds and more accurate, uniform products.


JPEO A&A, under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, is an innovative and empowered team committed to rapidly fielding dominating capabilities to the Soldier. The JPEO A&A is responsible for development, procurement and fielding of lethal armaments and ammunition, providing Joint warfighters and allied partners overmatch capabilities. This includes integrating budgets, acquisition strategies, research and development, and life-cycle management across all armament and ammunition program efforts.


As noted by Col. Harry F. Ennis in 1980, even at the peak of the Cold War, budget constraints hindered production and maintenance of the ammunition stockpile, and despite drops in the production rate, the reduced defense industrial base was expected to supply military demands. Another study notes how U.S. stockpiles of air-delivered ammunition were dangerously lowered by resupplying Israel via Operation Nickel Grass during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.


There is broad agreement among policymakers and analysts that a primary lesson of the Russo-Ukrainian War is that the United States and its allies should invest in the manufacturing of ammunition and precision-guided missiles. A recent Heritage Foundation report summarizes three core areas of improvement: rebuilding the manufacturing base to raise production levels by offering multi-year contracts; bypassing time-consuming contract competition requirements; and simplifying the Foreign Military Sales process to encourage rapid co-production. However, such policy recommendations do not account for the organization of ammunition manufacturing.


While we believe that the broad suggestion is correct, we divide munition and component manufacturing into two broad categories: sophisticated precision-guided munitions and unguided munitions. We make these broad distinctions because the markets for sophisticated and unsophisticated munitions are different, and the government should adopt different policies. Sophisticated munitions and the development of future capabilities require market competition and innovation. Precision-guided munitions are capital and technology intensive with opportunities for market-based competition between manufacturers. The private sector, through contractor-owned, contractor-operated facilities, will continue to manufacture the more research-intensive and higher profit margin precision-guided munitions, such as those for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (made by Lockheed Martin) and the Javelin (made by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon).


Thus, improving the production of high-tech munitions will require adjustments to export regulations, facilitating licensing agreements, and increasing the capacity to modify systems to suit U.S. policy objectives. Specifically, we propose that the defense industrial bases of NATO member states and treaty allies should be considered as part of the U.S. defense munition manufacturing industrial base for planning purposes. This proposal is similar to current thinking regarding the United Kingdom and Australia as instantiated by the AUKUS agreement. This can be accomplished by licensing agreements to internationalize production of currently limited munitions such as Javelin and other anti-tank missiles, howitzer rounds, and some other missiles. The ability to license production by allied countries, such as Turkey, expands the industrial base to states with the technical sophistication to manufacture components or systems and comparative advantages provided by lower labor costs, all without threatening U.S. jobs.


Congressional support to modify the Industrial Traffic in Arms Regulations is necessary to expedite arms exports and enable industrial collaboration. These regulations are designed to protect U.S. intellectual property and ensure that U.S. technology advantages are maintained. The munitions and systems demanded in Ukraine have relatively limited exposure to advanced U.S. technology but are nevertheless still covered by bureaucratic red tape. Other policy changes such as sunset clauses on certain systems and ammunition would facilitate contractors establishing vertically integrated production chains. Congressional support would be more forthcoming if these modifications to existing laws came with safeguards for the intellectual property rights of U.S. firms, which in turn require updates to the U.S. legal system to address existing and future concerns of the digital era.


Third, the Department of Defense should increase audits of government-owned, contractor-operated facility operators. Existing contracting processes include audits and reviews. Comprehensive analysis of ammunition quality, efficiency, and delivery necessitates significant improvement in data-collection efforts and design to enable internal and external experts in strategy, management accounting, and logistics to improve production processes. Unfortunately, responsibilities and documentation remain opaque. Ensuring a capacity to surge production will require different contract vehicles and standardization of the operating contracts known as Performance Work Statements across all government-owned, contractor-operated facilities.


Such a multi-faceted prescription would set the United States up for longer-term success with regards to ensuring its own military effectiveness, building transportable defensive capabilities, and ensuring timely and effectively support for partners like Taiwan. Whatever contingencies may arise in the future, Washington will want to have enough ammunition for them.


As the United States transfers massive amounts of weapons, munitions, and supplies to Ukraine, questions arise about the health of U.S. inventories. Are inventories getting too low? How long will it take to rebuild those inventories? An earlier CSIS commentary identified those inventories that are at risk as a result of transfers to Ukraine. This commentary continues that analysis by examining inventory replacement times. Most inventories, though not all, will take many years to replace. For most items, there are workarounds, but there may be a crisis brewing over artillery ammunition.


155 mm ammunition. This category consists of a wide variety of non-precision projectiles, mostly the basic high explosive (HE) shell (M795) but also specialty shells like extended range HE, smoke, illumination, and marking (white phosphorus). The United States has provided about 1,000,000 projectiles to Ukraine. It continues to provide some, though these may be pass-throughs from allies like South Korea who don't want to transfer lethal aid directly. Military planners appear to regard this as the most serious shortage since artillery constitutes the backbone of ground-based firepower.


155 mm precision (Excalibur). In 2007 the United States fielded Excalibur, an artillery shell guided by GPS. The firing unit has only to input the coordinates, and the projectile guides itself to the target with an accuracy of two meters. This projectile is far superior to the previous precision artillery munition, Copperhead, which required a spotter using a laser designator. A complementary system, called Cannon-Delivered Area Effects Munition (C-DAEM in the budget documents), is also GPS guided but uses submunitions to attack personnel and vehicles. It is just being fielded. (The Army needs a better name here, as a CSIS colleague has argued.) 041b061a72


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