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​From Israel and Korea, Ammunition Flows Into Ukraine But Those are US Shells: How It Happens and Why So Complicated

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155mm ammunition for the Ukrainian artillery / Illustrative photo credit: US Department of Defense
155mm ammunition for the Ukrainian artillery / Illustrative photo credit: US Department of Defense

Hundreds of thousands artillery rounds go from USA allies to Ukrainian frontlines but the process is rather complicated

The issue of steady supply of artillery ammunition is one of the pain points for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in their battle against the russian invasion, as everything is limited by the capacity of the existing supply chains and the reduction of 155mm ammunition stocks worldwide that's lasted for dozens of years.

So in order to manage its supplies to Ukraine, the United States decided to redistribute its regional stocks in Israel and South Korea and hand hundreds of thousands of them to the embattled Ukraine. According to The New York Times, just Israel-stationed stocks were depleted by 300,000 shells, and this amount is almost one-third of all the artillery rounds that the US has given to Ukraine so far.

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155mm shells for Ukraine
Illustrative photo credit: US Department of Defense

The thing is, the Pentagon for years has been creating warehouses with artillery ammunition in non-NATO allied countries, and they've become the one of the source for Ukraine deliveries.

These stocks were initially meant for the US military themselves, were located in the places accessed by American soldiers only but in case of necessity could be used by Israeli and Korean forces as well.

Particularly, in Israel, the stocks have been managed since the 1980s, and Tzahal took ammunition from them for military operations in 2006 and 2014, writes the NYT with reference to a US government report.

According to the media outlet, Israel authorities were wary of supplying shells from these stocks as it could create tensions with russia and were discussing this issue in the establishment for a while. But the fact that this is US property played a key role. However, the final decision was still up to Yair Lapid who was the Prime Minister of Israel from July 1st to December 29th, 2022.

155mm shells for Ukraine
Illustrative photo credit: US Department of Defense

Meanwhile in South Korea, the process was quicker although not without a hitch, too.

"The South Korean government did not want artillery rounds marked R.O.K. (Republic of Korea) showing up in Ukraine in violation of South Korean arms export rules," writes the NYT, quoting a senior U.S. official. "A compromise was reached. Artillery shells from the Korean stockpile would be sent to replenish American stocks elsewhere."

The number of ammunition withdrawn from Korean stocks is not specified. It is noted though that Korea agreed to sell 100,000 new artillery rounds to the USA that were supposed to replenish the American warehouses in the Asian country.

This mechanism applied by the United States in the allied countries allows to mitigate the gap between the production capacity of new 155mm ammunition in Ukraine's allies and the high rates of daily spending by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to the NYT, the Ukrainian army uses about 90,000 shells per month wich is twice as much the USA and European countries combined can produce in the same period.

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