The war in Ukraine is so heavy on artillery barrages that the Ukrainian and Russian forces are burning through ammunition at a rate not seen since the Korean War.
That’s according to U.S. defense officials, who told CBS News that the two sides are firing 4,000-7,000 and 20,000 rounds daily, respectively. At that rate, the official said, both sides would need to heavily resupply come the nearing winter.
As a result of the ammunition churn, the United States is looking to get a fresh shipment of shells to Ukraine via South Korea. Per the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. is looking to purchase 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery rounds for howitzers. The deal has not been finalized, but if it is, the United States would pay the ammunition with funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. It’s a two-fold approach. South Korea has pledged that it will not send lethal aid to Ukraine, but apparently this is just about direct shipments. Meanwhile the United States has been hoping to keep up its assistance to Kyiv, but the length of the war has been draining the American military’s own stockpiles of 155mm artillery rounds. Given that the U.S. does not want to hurt its own capabilities, the arms deal with South Korea allows for it to make a donation without drawing on already low supplies.
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South Korea’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying that a company in the country is in talks to sell the 155mm shells to the United States, but the talks are happening under the “premise that the U.S. will be the final user.”
Since the war began, artillery has been one of the dominant factors in the conflict. After Ukraine halted Russia’s advance in the spring, the war has turned into back-and-forth barrages, with many of the cities in the south and east being devastated by shelling. Even as Ukraine’s counterattacks in Russian-occupied territory have retaken ground, artillery has been a major part of the offensive. Kyiv has been aided by Western weapons shipments, including M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (or HIMARS) and M777 howitzers.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that United States Forces Korea shipped artillery rounds to Ukraine earlier in November, which had not previously been disclosed. A spokesman for United States Forces Korea said that the shipment did not impact the American military’s capabilities in the Korean Peninsula.
The arms deal with South Korea strangely parallels Russia’s own efforts to keep its ammunition supplies operationally capable. As reported in late summer, Moscow has turned to North Korea to buy a variety of ammunition, including artillery rounds.
The nearly nine-month-long war has featured all sorts of anachronistic combat elements— trench warfare and artillery barrages out of World War I side by side with drone reconnaissance and sneak attacks, as well as improvised war machines such as technicals made from donated cars. If the deal with South Korea goes through or not, the war will remain heavy on artillery bombardments, particularly if both sides maintain their current shelling rate.
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