Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, we have not only become one of the world's largest importers of arms but have also increased our own domestic arms manufacturing capabilities. In 2023 alone, we tripled the national production volumes of our weapons and military equipment.

It's important to realize that weapons and equipment deliveries provided to us by allies are not merely acts of charity or loyalty. Our use of this weaponry, much of it used in battle for the first time, has a direct influence on the development of the defense industries in the countries of origin.

Companies whose equipment has been used on military operations in Ukraine have obtained significant advantages over their competitors as they seek new markets for their products. To put it bluntly, our war has acted as an excellent advertisement for artillery systems, air defense systems, drones, armored vehicles, helicopters, and other equipment or otherwise for those that have not performed as well as expected.

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Ultimately, the most successful companies will be those that are able to build on this experience, modernize their products and scale up production faster than their competitors. Arms manufacturers are rushing to secure their place in line because the capacities of existing factories to meet the growing demand are limited.

What does Ukraine have to offer?

Ukraine's defense industry currently comprises approximately 500 companies, of which only 100 are state-owned, with the rest in private ownership. Most of these companies began their operations only after the start of full-scale invasion and, out of necessity, have managed to achieve a high level of proficiency.

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Private Ukrainian companies can produce aircraft, ground robotic systems, maritime drones, and various types of ammunition, greatly aiding our soldiers on the front lines. They are making strenuous efforts to modernize their defense production and to make our economy more resilient.

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Even so, we know we cannot establish production of all necessary weapons in such a short timeframe alone. This not only applies to vehicles, weapons, and ammunition it relates to our other military logistical needs such as: medical kits and equipment, boots, socks, field rations, and so forth.

Many of our private companies need additional operating funds as the capacity of our production facilities outstrips available funding. We really want to support domestic companies with orders – it's often cheaper and provides us with social as well as economic benefits. Today, we are only starting our journey, and we need to look for opportunities that allow us to continuously produce defense material.

The obvious solution is to seek out and cooperate with foreign partners, creating joint production, and investment projects. At the invitation of Ukraine, representatives of Textron Systems, Bell Helicopter, and Northrop Grumman visited Kyiv in March of this year. They brought proposals for joint production on Ukrainian territory of NATO-standard goods, including ammunition and large-scale equipment – particularly helicopters. The companies also offer to sell existing ammunition stocks that are currently stored in American company warehouses.

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The intention would be to involve Ukraine as a player in the global arms production market, by manufacturing goods in our country at enterprises equipped with American technology and expertise. In addition to providing indirect assistance to our country in the form of jobs and tax payments to the Ukrainian budget, Americans are genuinely interested in developing Ukraine's capabilities.

If we produce weapons and ammunition independently, we will depend less on supplies from foreign partners. Company representatives even voiced proposals for transporting existing facilities enterprises from America, for the assembly of high-tech helicopters.

Meetings were held with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the General Staff, the Main Intelligence Directorate, and other military bodies involved in international cooperation.

I have great hopes that by summer the first, albeit small-caliber, projectiles will be manufactured in Ukraine. We will also begin production of larger calibers (155 mm and above) from this year. Relevant processes and procedures have already been prepared and launched.

Ukrainian defense enterprises will receive and have the ability to make use of all the necessary assembly lines for this purpose. In the future, it is planned that Ukraine will be part of the US worldwide network for the production and sale of NATO-standard products. This means that we will both use and export equipment, the production of which was partially financed by various institutions and US military programs. This will allow us to finally, transition from Soviet standards to NATO standards.

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The visit of US military corporations has proved to be extremely fruitful. Optimistic forecasts for further cooperation while strengthening Ukraine's independence in arms production are becoming more realistic. And this means billions of dollars for arms production, job creation, and tax payments to the budget.

I am confident that we can build on such partnerships, and we will enter new markets together. The interaction between Western technology, the competencies and capabilities of Ukrainian manufacturers, the combat experience of Ukrainian defenders, and the main objectives of allies regarding the arms market can help us obtain more weapons for defense and enable us to enter the competitive environment alongside major manufacturers.

Cooperation with Western defense industry is vital to securing Ukraine's victory and also to safeguard our future security.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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