The resulting shortage of explosives hinders Europe’s attempts to produce weapons for Ukraine.
This is stated in an article in the Financial Times.
According to industry sources, this situation could delay efforts to increase the production of shells by as much as three years.
Shortages of gunpowder, plastic explosives and TNT have left the industry unable to quickly meet expected EU orders for Ukraine, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, according to officials and manufacturers.
In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has greatly exposed Europe’s insufficient stockpiles of weapons and weak domestic manufacturing capacity, depleted by decades of underinvestment.
The fundamental problem is that the European defense industry is not in the best shape for large-scale military production, a source among German officials said.
It is noted that Europe is trying to meet the military needs of Ukraine by pouring money into the defense sector, in particular to encourage the expansion of the production of 155-mm artillery and shells. However, producers, industry leaders and EU officials warn that increased demand could only push up prices, which have already jumped 20% over the past year.
It is very difficult to increase the production of artillery ammunition, especially heavy, large-caliber ones, in a short time, says Jiří Ginek, chairman of the Association of Defense and Security Industry of the Czech Republic. – Building a new artillery factory is very easy, but how to make more artillery shells without raw materials?
Defense industry officials argue that Europe has limited stocks of explosives such as gunpowder, TNT and nitrocellulose, which are needed to manufacture shells.
The bottlenecks in our capacities are mainly (explosive – ed.) gunpowder, which is in short supply throughout Europe, – said one of the sources of the publication.
For example, this week the Romanian government said it was in talks with US and South Korean companies to build a gunpowder factory in the country. The last such plant was closed in 2004.
It is impossible to increase (production – ed.) nitrocellulose in a short time. In Europe, there are no important producers of the raw materials that we need, Ginek notes, referring to the main ingredient in gunpowder. “If I want to increase the production of gunpowder, I need three years.
In particular, the publication became aware of such difficulties for manufacturers:
- one of Europe’s largest suppliers of explosives to munitions factories, the Czech state-owned company Explosia, said its production of propellants used in 155mm artillery is “operating at full capacity” and will not increase until 2026, despite ongoing investments;
- even EU officials who advocated financial stimulus packages privately admit that European artillery manufacturers have let them know that increasing production will not be an easy task;
- Fábrica Municiones de Granada (FMG), one of two Spanish manufacturers of 155mm artillery, has been operating at full capacity since October last year, producing shells for a trading company that sells them to Ukraine. But FMG CEO Antonio Caro said the expansion took four to five months due to difficulties in obtaining key materials and components;
- the main problem is the lack of additional volumes of primary materials. The supply of ammunition is very tight all over the world, because all factories are 100% loaded. In particular, the European plants for the production of TNT and nitrocellulose are fully loaded, and manufacturers are forced to look for the necessary materials in India, Korea and other countries;
- the cost of basic materials has “doubled, and in some cases tripled,” the manufacturers say. This growth and surge in demand has also pushed up the price of ammunition, although the rise has been less pronounced, about 20% during the full-scale Russian invasion.
Source: Financial Times
I am David Wyatt, a professional writer and journalist for Buna Times. I specialize in the world section of news coverage, where I bring to light stories and issues that affect us globally. As a graduate of Journalism, I have always had the passion to spread knowledge through writing.