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A new Howitzer ammo plant nearly doubles US production, but it's still not nearly enough to match Russia's output

Matthew Loh   

A new Howitzer ammo plant nearly doubles US production, but it's still not nearly enough to match Russia's output
  • A new 155mm factory in Texas aims to produce 30,000 rounds a month, per The New York Times.
  • It's part of the US plan to manufacture 100,000 rounds a month by the end of 2025.

The US has opened a new factory for Howitzer ammo near Dallas, which aims to pump out 30,000 of the 155mm shells a month as the Ukraine war chews through Western stocks.

The factory, run by General Dynamics in Mesquite, Texas, was built from scratch in just 10 months with the help of technologies from Turkish arms manufacturer Repkon, The New York Times' John Ismay reported on Wednesday.

Ismay noted that one of its production lines would be next to a Frito-Lays distribution center that appeared to be taking deliveries from Cheetos trucks.

The Texas plant's monthly manufacturing goal of 30,000 shells falls under a new push by the US Army to make 100,000 rounds a month by 2025.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, the US produced only 14,000 shells a month, but by the end of 2023, this had doubled to 28,000.

According to Ismay, the most updated production figures show that 36,000 shells are made monthly at two factories in Pennsylvania. The new facility at max capacity would bump total production to 66,000 shells a month for the US.

That might be two-thirds of the way to the US' 2025 goal but still pales to Russia's current production rate — underscoring a major advantage in artillery capacity for Moscow.

The Kremlin was estimated to be producing 250,000 shells a month, or 3 million a year, according to NATO assessments reported by CNN in March.

It is also unlikely that all of the forecast 100,000 monthly shells produced by the US would be reserved for Kyiv. Washington is also sending ammo to Israel, for example, and needs to think about replenishing its own stock.

NYT cited Michael Kofman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, saying: "Let's say a year and a half from now both the US and Europe are making, or buying, over a million shells each. That's still probably less than Russia is going to produce this year."

Kofman told the outlet that while the Mesquite plant would be important for long-term production, Russia would likely still be producing more ammo than the West even if the US hits its 2025 goal.

The US and Europe have sent Ukraine more than 3 million 155mm artillery shells since the war began. Ukraine has said the munitions are critical to its defense. Though Kyiv is burning through thousands of shells per day, Russia is estimated to be firing multiple times more shells back.

In March, the European Union earmarked another $2.15 billion to boost its production after only being able to supply about half of the 1 million 155mm rounds it promised to deliver by that month.

Meanwhile, the US Army said it would need some $3.1 billion to hit its 100,000-rounds-per-month goal and received $6 billion instead.

"So that, I think, is a vote of confidence as we make our way to 100,000 shells a month," said Doug Bush, the Army's top official for acquisitions, in March.

On Sunday, Sky News reported on a Bain & Company analysis that said Russia is on pace to manufacture about 4.5 million shells this year, at a cost of about $1,000 per round.

The US, on the other hand, spends about $3,000 to $4,000 to make a single 155mm round. With Washington and its allies expected to produce about 1.3 million rounds in 2024, that would be about a third of Russia's forecast capacity at triple the cost.

Press teams for the Pentagon and the US Army did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent outside regular business hours by Business Insider.

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