Russia will soon exhaust its combat capabilities, Western assessments predict
And what about US combat capabilities?
The end of the Cold War hastened the decline. From 218 artillery battalions in 1989, the number of Regular Army, Reserve and National Guard units shrank to 141 by 1999. In the 2003 Iraq War, well-trained artillery crews were being used as infantry.
“While the U.S. Army’s field artillery branch was dealing with the implications of COIN from 2003 to the present, the militaries of a number of potential competitor nations made significant advances,” noted a 2019 study by the RAND Corporation.
“For example, as of 2017, the Russian Army has made considerable advances in its artillery.
The US has somewhat replaced artillery with airstrikes. The Ukraine does have access to US airstrikes. Yet anyway.
The winner in a prolonged war between two near-peer powers is still based on which side has the strongest industrial base. A country must either have the manufacturing capacity to build massive quantities of ammunition or have other manufacturing industries that can be rapidly converted to ammunition production. Unfortunately, the West no longer seems to have either.
Presently, the US is decreasing its artillery ammunition stockpiles. In 2020, artillery ammunition purchases decreased by 36% to $425 million. In 2022, the plan is to reduce expenditure on 155mm artillery rounds to $174 million.
In short, US annual artillery production would at best only last for 10 days to two weeks of combat in Ukraine. If the initial estimate of Russian shells fired is over by 50%, it would only extend the artillery supplied for three weeks.
The US is not the only country facing this challenge. In a recent war game involving US, UK and French forces, UK forces exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after eight days.
Artillery manufacturing factories like semi conductor factories take time to build. And does an artillery munition manufacturer wish to make such an expenditure form a limited need for more equipment? Would increasing existing factories production to 24/7 be sufficient to supply the Ukraine? From where would the skilled labor supply come?
In looking around the internet the US has one huge factory complex** owned by US, run by General Dynamics*.
And it is more than just artillery ammunition production. The US is replacing Ukraine artillery with Western equipment as the Ukrainians had Russian equipment & have already taken all the spare ammunition for that Russian weaponry that Eastern European NATO members can spare. The Ukraine is running out ammunition for their Russian equipment***.