WASHINGTON — The Army’s artillery production doubled in the last year with the service currently producing 28,000 155-millimeter howitzer rounds a month.
The dramatic uptick comes as the Army expanded its capacity at current facilities while looking to bring new ones into the mix next year.
"We will have taken, over a couple years, what was a very fragile, admittedly, industrial base and dramatically improved its strength,” said Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.
The need for the increased artillery comes in response to supporting the war in Ukraine, the recent conflict in Israel and replenishing U.S. stockpiles. The service has sent more than two million rounds to Ukraine thus far.
Currently, the Army ships steel from Ohio to two facilities in Pennsylvania, the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant, and a sister facility in Wilkes-Barre. These two plants turn 2,000-pound steel rods into two-foot-tall artillery shells.
The shells are then transported to the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, where they are filled with explosives and sealed. The propellent and charges for the rounds are mostly produced at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia and the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee.
Throughout this year, the Army expanded production at these facilities by constructing new buildings, installing new equipment and improving automation. These upgrades helped double the Army’s artillery production rate, Bush said.
With the expanded capacity at current facilities, the Army is shifting its focus in fiscal year 2024 toward bringing brand-new production facilities into the manufacturing process. This will give the service multiple sources for each production step.
“Which is what you want in the ammunition production world,” Bush said. “You don’t want one building being the single point of failure.”
The service is building a new factory in Mesquite, Texas, and it awarded a contract last year to a Canadian company to build the artillery shells. It is also funding two new facilities to load the shells with explosives. One will be in Arkansas, and the other will be in Kansas.
The improved production process is part of the Army’s modernization plan to bring the industrial base into the 21st century. Current and future Army readiness requires modernization on a sustainable path that develops, implements, and deploys new technologies to deter current and emerging threats.
Bush said the Army aims to increase 155-millimeter production to 60,000 by next summer and to 100,000 by the end of 2025. The 100,000-round goal is largely contingent on the approval of President Joe Biden’s request to Congress for fiscal year 2024 emergency supplemental funding, which has $3.1 billion for 155-millimeter artillery production and facility modernization.
"This important legislation is needed to make sure the Army is ready to meet the growing challenges we face today, and in the future,” Bush said. “It will strengthen our industrial base to ensure we can supply our defense needs while we serve as the arsenal of democracy for our allies.”