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19 Apr, 2023 14:33

US military industry struggling to meet Ukraine demand – WSJ

A shortage of rocket motors is interrupting the supply of missiles to Kiev
US military industry struggling to meet Ukraine demand – WSJ

American arms manufacturers are struggling to obtain enough rocket motors to build missiles for Ukrainian forces, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. With multiple contractors relying on a single supplier, production targets have already been pushed back.

In a quarterly earnings report released on Tuesday, Lockheed Martin said that although its overall sales rose from a year earlier, sales of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) fell due to a “lower volume” leaving its factories.

GMLRS projectiles are artillery rockets, and are fired from Lockheed Martin’s M142 HIMARS platform. According to the most recent Pentagon figures, the US has given Ukraine 38 HIMARS platforms, and while the Defense Department does not disclose how many GMLRS projectiles have been sent to Kiev, a Reuters investigation put the figure at over 5,000 last November, more than the 4,600 Lockheed Martin can make in a year.

A shortage of rocket motors has hindered the company’s efforts to boost production, the Wall Street Journal reported. Other missile makers like Raytheon Technologies have also been affected, the newspaper’s source said.

Lockheed Martin also uses solid-fuel rocket motors in its Javelin anti-tank missiles, of which more than 8,500 have been sent to Ukraine over the last year. During a visit by President Joe Biden to the company’s Javelin manufacturing facility in Alabama last May, CEO Jim Taiclet vowed to double production of the shoulder-fired missiles by 2024. However, the company and the Pentagon told the Wall Street Journal that the date has since been pushed back to 2026.

“We thought we could get there earlier,” Lockheed Martin’s Chief Financial Officer, Jay Malave, told the paper.

US missile makers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies source their rocket motors from a single supplier, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings. However, although the Pentagon awarded Aerojet a $216 million contract last week to boost production, it said it was still recovering from a fire at one of its factories last year, while the sale of the company to aerospace giant L3Harris Technologies is still being scrutinized by antitrust authorities.

While rocket artillery and guided missile production are apparently hindered, Ukraine is also grappling with a shortage of conventional artillery rounds. Leaked Pentagon documents recently suggested that the shortfall is delaying a planned spring offensive by Kiev’s forces, while the US is reportedly looking to its allies to replenish its depleted stockpiles.

Russia has repeatedly warned that the influx of Western weapons will only prolong the conflict in Ukraine. The West’s involvement “is rising gradually,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month, adding that the West’s support for Kiev “cannot influence the final outcome of the special operation.”