Arms Deals Soaring: Killing Thousands to Make a Few Billionairs

November 29th, 2022 - by News from Defense One / Government Executive Media Group

War Is Hell: As In
“A Hell-of-a-Way to Profit from Death”

News from Defense One / Government Executive Media Group

(November 28, 2022) — US and European arms makers seem to be busier than they’ve been all century now that we’re 10 months into the Russian military’s faltering invasion of its democratic neighbor Ukraine. There were at least four reports from major Western news outlets over the last several days about this new phase of weapons production.

Warehouses across eastern European cities like Warsaw and Prague are newly bustling with activity related to artillery and gun manufacturing, as well as bullet-proof vests and air defense systems, Reuters reported Thursday.

Rocket launchers, tanks, and bullets are dominating orders at firms like Germany’s Rheinmetall and Sweden’s Saab, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thanksgiving Day. American firms are seeing renewed interest in older weapons, too; that includes Raytheon’s Stinger missiles, and Lockheed Martin’s Javelin and HIMARS rocket stocks. Even L3Harris Technologies Inc. is cannibalizing old radios for chips to be used in new communications gear, according to the Journal.

In terms of artillery use, “A day in Ukraine is a month or more in Afghanistan,” one expert told the New York Times, reporting on the same trends Saturday. Consider this: “Last summer in the Donbas region, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000 to 7,000 artillery rounds each day,” whereas  “Russians were firing 40,000 to 50,000 rounds per day…By comparison, the United States produces only 15,000 rounds each month.”

Western nations have donated some 350 howitzer artillery systems to Ukraine (142 of those are from the US); and at least a third are out of commission at any given time due to the laborious process of changing out warped barrels due to heat and overuse, the New York Times reported separately on Friday. French officials say they’d like to do more for Ukraine, but they’ve already donated a fifth of their howitzer systems to Kyiv since February.

But there have also been notable instances of resilience and adaptability with the donated weapon systems: “To shell Russian positions at Snake Island,” the Times‘ Steven Erlanger and Lara Jakes reported, “the Ukrainians put Caesars, with a 40-kilometer range, on barges and towed them out 10 kilometers to hit the island, which was 50 kilometers away, astonishing the French.”

One idea floated here stateside: Put Boeing’s Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs onto current rockets in Ukraine’s inventory. That’s one concept reported out by Mike Stone of Reuters on Monday as Ukraine’s allies consider ways to get more bang for their existing buck.

But replacing 155mm shells here in the states? Even if you begin now, “it’s going to be probably four to five years before you start seeing them come out the other end,” Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Times.

The Big Picture Take
Rheinmetall’s CEO told the Journal he’s seen “a very, very clear signal that there must be investment programs over the next 10-15 years for the security of all of Europe.” Continue reading, here.

“Russian forces have been digging trench lines and concentration areas in eastern Kherson since early October,” which seems to suggest they are “preparing either to defend in depth or to conduct operational or strategic delay operations,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote in their latest assessment Sunday evening.

“Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the [Dnipro] river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing,” ISW says, and predicts, “The Russian military is setting conditions for a protracted defense in eastern Kherson Oblast that could allow the establishment of a solid Ukrainian lodgment on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.”

New Developments
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has begun a three-day visit to Romania where he plans to meet with President Klaus Iohannis, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, and Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu. Stoltenberg will be chairing a NATO diplomat meeting in Bucharest this week, as well as a conference where he’ll deliver a keynote address on Tuesday.

NATO Stages Missile Exercises in Romania
NATO tested one of its air defense systems in Romania last Wednesday—simulating an attack and the response via a French SAMP/T air defense system that’s been in Romania since May. On top of those French systems, “Germany has deployed Patriot missiles to Slovakia; the US has deployed Patriot missiles to Poland; and the Spanish have deployed NASAMS systems to Latvia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” NATO said in a statement following the Wednesday drills.

Meanwhile from Capitol Hill, the US could soon finally get ambassadors to Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic after a Tuesday afternoon hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Details, here.

On this day in 1958, the US successfully tested the world’s first operational intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-65 Atlas. Its secretive development also gave us the corrosion-inhibiting lubricant, WD-40, initially designed for use with the Atlas rockets, and later expanded to ordinary stuff like door hinges and stuck piano keys.

Citing both China and Russia, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has sent Congress a letter urging House and Senate leaders to quickly pass a year-long funding bill—and to do so before Republicans take control of the House in early January, and hopefully before current government funding expires on Dec. 16. “We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our back three, four, five, or six months of every fiscal year,” Austin said in his message, which Politico obtained a copy of on Monday. Read that (PDF) here.

From the Region
Two rockets landed near coalition forces on a US patrol base in Syria late Friday night. Fortunately, no one was injured and nothing was damaged, US Central Command said in a statement. “Attacks of this kind place coalition forces and the civilian populace at risk and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.

Additional Reading:
• “CIA Aims to Recruit Spies Among Russians Displeased With Ukraine War,” the Wall Street Journal reported two days before Thanksgiving;

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