The U.S. military has depleted considerable stocks of precision munitions and artillery shells after providing large sums of materiel to Ukraine for use in the ongoing struggle against Russia. However, the Pentagon maintains it will not part with so many weapons that its strategic reserves are threatened.
It's also worth noting that simple artillery shells can be sourced from other friendly countries, South Korea for instance, although there are still production limitations.
Regardless, the Defense Department has maintained that it is not risking the depletion of its stocks but has sought to ramp up some weapons production to continue supplying Ukraine while refilling its own magazines.
To that end, the Army announced on Nov. 17 that it awarded Lockheed Martin another $14.35 million contract to boost production of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that Ukraine has used with significant effect against high-value Russian targets. HIMARS is a wheeled launcher truck that fires GMLRS and other munitions with high accuracy.
“The delivery will increase production capacity to allow the U.S. government to more rapidly replenish DoD stocks provided in support of Ukrainian armed forces,” the Army said in a statement announcing the award.
“Providing security assistance to our international partners is essential, and this contract speaks volumes toward that effort,” said Doug Bush, the Army's Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.
The HIMARS procurement is part of the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriation. The contract includes funding from Ukraine replenishment supplementals, Department of the Army fiscal year 2022 procurement appropriations, and international partners for HIMARS launchers, the Army said.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh reiterated during a Nov. 17 press conference that the Defense Department is keeping a close watch over its ammunition stockpiles.
“We're not going to dip below our readiness levels, and we continue to assess our readiness now levels with each whether it's a presidential drawdown package for security assistance that we announced our goal is to make sure that we are setting up Ukraine for this enduring war that Russia started in February, and we're in it for the long haul,” Singh said. “As Secretary [of Defense Lloyd Austin] said yesterday, we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. And so you're going to continue to see packages announced from this department, from other agencies when it comes to support for Ukraine.”
This week has been an eventful one inside Ukraine and on the peripheries of the war, but before we dive into the latest details, be sure to catch up on our previous rolling coverage of the conflict here.
When it comes to going all-out to supply Ukraine with weapons regardless of backstock inventory levels, Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is asking allies to go big. She issued a public call for all NATO nations to “empty out their warehouses and send Ukraine all the weapons they need” to “end this war once and for all.”
Video has emerged of several angles of Western-donated air defense systems engaging incoming Russian missiles. Remarkable footage of one intercept can be seen in the videos below, reported during the Nov. 15 barrage.
Even with increased air defense capabilities, many Russian missiles are getting through, as the below video shows. The large explosion was filmed in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Oct. 17.
Ukrainian “specialists” are either en route or already in Poland, where a missile landed and exploded on Nov. 15, according to Warsaw’s Head of the Bureau of International Policy.
Singh said Poland is leading the investigation into what transpired when a missile landed near the Ukrainian border and killed two. The U.S. military has offered any and all help they may need to establish what happened.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kubela, said he spoke with his Polish counterpart on Thursday and that Ukrainian officials are already in Poland to aid in the investigation.
Kubela also recently spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “during another massive missile attack on Ukraine.” Kuleba said U.S.-provided National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, “have proved their efficiency already, in intercepting Russian missiles, but “I am also convinced that the time for ‘Patriots’ has come,” meaning the more-capable MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system. Though they have been suggested as a possible solution to Ukraine's air-defense needs, as yet, Patriots are not on offer to Ukraine. The arrival of Iranian ballistic missiles could possibly change that, but there are major issues with doing so, which you can read all about here.
“We share the view that Russia bears full responsibility for its missile terror and its consequences on the territory of Ukraine, Poland, and Moldova,” Kuleba said of Blinken.
The Kremlin released a statement blaming its missile onslaught on Ukraine’s refusal to negotiate an end to the war, the Kyiv Independent news service quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Ukraine is not without recourse, as it supposedly launched attacks on Nov. 17 targeting Russian positions in occupied Crimea. Ukrainian missiles reportedly hit a military airfield in northern Crimea, where dozens of aircraft are housed. We are trying to confirm the validity of this claim and what, if anything, was damaged at the base.
HIMARS rockets launched by Ukrainian forces also struck Chornobaivka afield in Russian-occupied Kherson prior to Russia fleeing. A lengthy video of the destruction can be seen below.
Also in Kherson, Ukrainian troops captured a huge cache of 120mm mortar ammunition that appeared to include incendiary, smoke, and high-explosive shells. Russian forces appear to have retreated and left the stacks of ammunition in good order for Ukrainian soldiers to find.
As Ukrainian forces consolidate positions on the western bank of the Dnipro River, recently abandoned by Russian forces, they are bringing long-range fire capabilities to bear on Russian positions along the river's eastern shore.
Some footage of Russian forces’ chaotic retreat across the river can be seen below. The video shows several Russian soldiers crossing the river in what looks to be a civilian motorboat before their comrades on the far side of the waterway open fire on them.
Some slick glamor shots of a Pion 203mm self-propelled howitzer emerged online.
On the Svatove front in the Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces captured three T-72B3 main battle tanks, some of the relatively modern Russian types in use in Ukraine. Unlike many of the T-72s Russia has lost in incredibly dramatic fashion, these vehicle seems to be in realtively good shape and could possibly be used again by the Ukrainians.
Perhaps anticipating a renewed offensive by Russian or allied Belorussian forces from the north, a fortified border wall has been constructed between Ukraine and Belarus. The video below shows that the wall appears to be mainly built of concrete and topped by coiled razor wire. That should at least slow a ground offensive from the northeast while Ukraine focuses on ousting Russian forces it’s the south and east.
It now appears that the supposed car accident that claimed the life of Russian-installed deputy governor of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, also involved someone shooting at his armored car. As seen in the photos below, there appear to be bullet holes in several parts of the wreckage where Stremousov died last week.
After eight years of investigation, the international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was blown from the sky over Donbas in 2014 by a Buk Missile air defense system launched from Russian-occupied Pervomaisk. The incident killed all 298 people onboard the airliner.
Dmitry Rogozin, former director general of Russian defense contractor Roscomos, is seen in the video below promoting a new Russian-made suicide drone similar in size and configuration to the Switchblade-300 loitering munition with which the U.S. is supplying Ukraine. The apparent test flight shows the tube-launched drone fly from an unmanned ground vehicle and a man-portable tube before extending its wings and entering forward flight mode, though the footage does not include an attack on a target.
Ukrainian morale seems to be holding if videos like the one below of soldiers drifting through the mud in a YPR-765 armored infantry fighting vehicle are any measure.
Contact the author: Dan@thewarzone.com