Ukrainian soldiers fire a round from an M777 howitzer in the eastern Donetsk region. [Source: Aljazeera]
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up demand for American-made weapons and ammunition, while US allies in Eastern Europe are ordering a range of arms as they supply Kyiv.
The Pentagon is considering a proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet the demand for more weapons.
US and allied military inventories are shrinking, and Ukraine faces an increasing need for more sophisticated arms as the war drags on.
Boeing’s proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and the US’s Eastern European allies, industry sources said.
GLSDB could be delivered as early as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters news agency and three people familiar with the plan. It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in US inventories.
Doug Bush, the US Army’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters at the Pentagon last week the military was also looking at accelerating production of 155mm artillery shells – currently manufactured only at government facilities – by allowing defence contractors to build them.
The invasion of Ukraine drove up demand for American-made weapons and ammunition, while US allies in Eastern Europe are “putting a lot of orders” in for a range of arms as they supply Ukraine, Bush added.
“It’s about getting quantity at a cheap cost,” said Tom Karako, a weapons and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said falling US inventories help explain the rush to get more arms now, saying stockpiles are “getting low relative to the levels we like to keep on hand and certainly to the levels we’re going to need to deter a China conflict”.
Karako also noted the US exit from Afghanistan left lots of air-dropped bombs available. They cannot be easily used with Ukrainian aircraft, but “in today’s context we should be looking for innovative ways to convert them to standoff capability”.