An Istanbul-managed armaments plant is thought to be churning out tens of thousands of critically-needed 122mm Soviet-standard artillery ammunition for the Ukrainian military, despite declarations by President Erdoğan that Ankara’s position on the war in Ukraine is neutral and that Turkey could act as an honest broker and intermediary for both sides.
Video and photographs posted on Telegram by Ukrainian volunteer and civil activist Roman Bochkala on Monday showed him holding a Ukrainian flag inside a factory filled with partially-assembled 122mm artillery shells, among other images.
The munitions, Bochkala stated in the video, are being produced in three shifts running 24 hours a day with the ammunition destined for use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) against Russian forces – although he did not make clear where the factory was located.
Kyiv Post image analysts identified corporate logos on the premises to be associated with the major Turkish munitions company Palladium Teknoloji Ve Muhendislik Sanayi Ve Ticaret LTD.
Customer information published by LAVR International, a company marketing 122m shell manufacturing capacity on the international arms market, confirmed Turkish facilities operated by Palladium are currently manufacturing around 30,000 shells of that the caliber each month.
However, another Ukrainian military milblogger said the company logo shown in Bochkala’s images was for a manufacturing facility in Azerbaijan, managed by the Palladium corporation in Turkey.
Both Bochkala and the LAVR corporate information stated the 122mm shells produced at the facility use S60 steel, a quality structural carbon steel. Neither Palladium and LAVR have responded to a Kyiv Post request for comment at the time this article was published.
The 122mm caliber artillery ammunition is of Soviet-era design which is no longer in wide production in Ukraine, but remains the artillery workhorse of the AFU, primarily used by towed D-30 howitzers in infantry brigades and 2S1 self-propelled howitzers in mechanized infantry and tank brigades.
According to local analysts, about one in three artillery pieces currently in use by the AFU employ 122mm projectiles.
Bochkala said that the shells pictured on the factory floor, would be provided to AFU D-30 howitzers.
Turkey’s powerful armaments industry, according to open-source reports, has sent Ukraine drones, laser-guided missiles, armored vehicles, and heavy rocket launchers, and munitions. Turkish production of Soviet-standard artillery ammunition for Ukraine had not previously been reported.
Comments made by Erdoğan in New York in September claimed his government was not taking sides in the Russo-Ukraine War saying: “Both leaders and prime ministers have negative attitudes toward Putin. Of course, we do not have the same attitude. I do not find these attitudes right. Because Russia is not an ordinary country.”
Although Ukraine’s western allies have slowly since Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion moved to assist the AFU with deliveries of NATO-standard 105mm and 155mm weapons and ammunition, 122mm shells have been in chronic shortage with the AFU for more than a year. Most other major producers of the shell, including China and North Korea, are allied with Russia.
In February, NATO member Bulgaria announced it would restart 122mm ammunition production on lines that had been idle since the break-up of the Soviet Union, but this has not seen much improvement in the availability of the shells.
The fact that AFU front-line troops have been able to identify far more targets than its gunners have had ammunition to fire has been documented for months.
On Monday the major German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall announced it had signed a new €142 million contract from an unnamed customer to supply Ukraine with NATO-standard 155mm artillery shells in 2025. Production for this order will be carried out in Spain.
The firm is currently filling an order for 40,000 155mm shells to be sent to Ukraine in 2024, and by the end of the year Rheinmetall plans to increase its worldwide capacity to manufacture this caliber of munition, also widely used by the AFU, to 700,000 shells annually, a corporate press release said.
Rheinmetall has described itself as the world’s largest manufacturer of 155mm shells. The company’s primary customer is Germany’s Bundeswehr, for which Rheinmetall will produce several hundred thousand rounds of artillery ammunition in orders worth over €1 billion.
AFU artillery personnel have told Kyiv Post that all types of ammunition are available in limited quantities, allowing strikes against individual vehicles or troop concentrations, but almost always insufficient to demolish strong Russian defenses or to break up major Russian assaults. Estimates of overall AFU shell requirements vary widely from about 2,000 to 8,000 a day.
Except during early phases of major AFU offensive operations, or when faced with heavy armored Russian Federation assaults on Ukrainian positions, AFU gunners almost always have far fewer shells available than needed to execute combat missions, those sources said.
US Army officials in September said American 155mm artillery munitions production had increased to 28,000 per month, a figure that would rise to roughly 60,000 a month in 2024, 80,000 by 2025 and 100,000 by 2026.
Pentagon awards of $1.5 billion in contracts to nine companies in the US, Canada, India and Poland would boost global production of 155mm artillery rounds. In North America, according to those statements, facilities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Canada and Iowa would receive more capable equipment and additional staff to enable a five times increase in shell production capacity, as compared to its capacity in 2022 prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In late November Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda declared Europe’s commitment to deliver a million 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine’s army by mid-2024 was significantly behind schedule because manufacturers hadn’t been able to spin up production capacity quickly enough.
In a Dec. 4 interview with Voice of America, retired US General Ben Hodges called on Ukraine’s government to upscale domestic shell manufacturing, and for Ukraine’s allies to shift as much shell production to Ukraine from plants outside the country.
“For decades, Ukraine was the heart of the defense industry of the Soviet Union. Therefore, I believe that Ukraine should do everything possible to increase production,” the former supreme commander NATO ground forces Europe said.
“Of course, it is important to supply ready-made ammunition to Ukraine. But yes - Ukraine can produce itself. From the outside, only a supply of gunpowder and some materials is needed.”
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