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Ukraine’s arms industry is growing, but is it growing fast enough?

When Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, the Ukrainian army had only one Bokhdana gun in its arsenal. However, the weapon, which was manufactured in Ukraine in 2018 and is capable of firing NATO-caliber shells, proved so effective early in the war that it was trucked to battlefields across the country, from the northeastern city of Kharkiv to The southwestern coast of the Black Sea and places in between.

The Ukrainian arms industry is now building eight self-propelled Bokhdana artillery systems per month, and although officials would not disclose how many systems are produced in total, the increase in production suggests that the country’s domestic weapons production may be booming.

This upgrade comes at a critical time.Russia’s war machine has started Arms production quadrupled Operation around the clock.Ukrainian forces are losing territory in key areas, including strategic eastern towns Avdiivka, from which they withdrew in FebruaryA U.S. aid package remains pending. While European defense companies cautiously operate in Ukraine, major U.S. arms producers have yet to commit to opening factories during the war.

It is widely believed that Ukraine needs to rebuild its domestic defense industry so that its military does not have to rely on the West in the coming years, which has sometimes hesitated to send advanced weapons systems, including air defense systems, tanks and long-range weapons systems. Whether this can be done in time remains to be seen as the war becomes more fragile without more U.S. military aid.

But Ukrainian military engineers have show amazing skills jury rigging Older weapons systems with more modern firepowerAccording to Ukrainian government documents reviewed by The New York Times, last year alone, Ukrainian defense companies tripled their pre-war production of armored vehicles and quadrupled their anti-tank missile production.

R&D funding is expected to increase eightfold this year, from $162 million to $1.3 billion, according to an analysis of Ukraine’s military budget through 2030 by defense intelligence firm Janes. Military procurement is expected to jump to a 20-year high, approaching $10 billion by 2023, compared with pre-war figures of about $1 billion a year.

“We say that the destruction of the enemy begins with us,” Alexander Kamyshin, Ukraine’s minister of strategic industries, said in an interview last month at his office in a nondescript brick building in Kiev. Surrounded by restaurants and apartment complexes.

“It’s about showing that we’re not going to sit around and wait for you to come and help us,” Mr. Kamesin said. “It’s about trying to make something ourselves.”

Some weapons have proven more difficult to produce in Ukraine than others. These include 155 mm artillery shells, which are badly needed on the battlefield but rely on imported raw materials and licensing rights from Western manufacturers or governments. Kamyshin said that Ukraine’s domestically produced weapons 155mm artillery shells are “on the way”, but did not disclose the specific time.

Was a major supplier Soviet and Ukrainian defense industries shrunk After the country declared independence in 1991, the country endured more than three decades of budget cuts. The Kiev government now plans to spend about $6 billion this year on Ukrainian-made weapons, including 1 million drones, but Mr. Kamyshin said, “We can produce more than we have the funds available to us.”

A prolonged recession can be difficult to overcome. To restart production of the 2S22 Bohdana artillery gun, for example, officials had to find the weapon’s original designers and engineers, some of whom were assigned to perform menial military duties across Ukraine.

By June 2022, the Ukrainian army used the 30-mile range of the “Bokhdana” to target and destroy the Russian air defense system, and successfully competed for the Snake Island in the Black Sea.

“This was a very big surprise for the Russians,” said Maj. Myroslav Hai, a special operations officer who helped liberate the island. “They couldn’t understand how someone could use artillery at such a long range.”

In Europe, political leaders worried about undermining U.S. support and business executives who see opportunities in new markets are pushing for military production in Ukraine, even though it may take years for the weapons or supplies to reach the battlefield.

this german arms giant Rheinmetall and Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar A manufacturing plant is being built in Ukraine.French Defense Minister stated in March that three french companies Companies that produce drones and land warfare equipment are close to similar deals.Last month, Germany and France Announcing the establishment of a joint venture Through the defense group KNDS, tank and howitzer parts and ultimately entire weapons systems are manufactured in Ukraine.

Experts say the Ukrainian military has deployed air defense systems around some of its most critical weapons factories. Foreign-backed factories are likely to be built mainly in the west of the country, far from the front lines but also protected by air defense systems.

Christian Seear, director of Ukraine operations for British military contractor BAE Systems, said even the new moves by foreign producers sent “a key message – you can come into Ukraine and do your work.”

Seale said that while British Space Systems hopes to manufacture weapons in Ukraine in the future, the company is currently focused on a “forward repair” approach to repairing Ukraine’s weapons damaged in combat and getting them back to the front line more quickly. Many of the weapons in Ukraine’s ground war – including the M777 and Archer grenades, Bradley and CV90 fighting vehicles and Challenger 2 tanks – are made by BAE Systems.

“We want to keep these things fighting, and it’s clear you can’t continue to maintain these assets in neighboring countries,” Mr. Seale said. “A long-term war of attrition is unacceptable when good, reliable howitzers have to travel hundreds of miles.”

Ukrainian and U.S. officials said that so far no major U.S. arms manufacturer has announced plans to open production lines in Ukraine. However, some senior executives have visited Kyiv in recent weeks to meet with Kamyshin and other officials, and the Biden administration also hosted a meeting between Ukrainian leaders and U.S. military contractors in December.

Helping Ukraine rebuild its defense industry has become even more important as congressional Republicans blocked $60 billion in military and financial aid to Ukraine. (However, Louisiana Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, recently sent a signal He is looking for a politically acceptable way to put the aid package to a vote. )

But Kyiv’s web of bureaucracy is likely to stymie at least some investors as they try to submit proposals to three ministries: the Defense Ministry, the Ministry of Digital Transformation and Mr. Kamyshin’s Ministry of Strategic Industries.

“We’re trying to understand how it all comes together and how it works together,” said William B. Taylor, a former ambassador to Kyiv who is leading a U.S. Institute of Peace study Work to help connect America to America. and Ukrainian defense companies.

“There are a lot of opportunities for American companies to invest in other parts of the world. This is a matter of national interest for the United States, so we will take additional steps to help build those connections,” Mr. Taylor said.

With 155mm guns urgently needed, Mr Taylor suggested an initial joint venture between Ukrainian and US companies could focus on increasing production.

European producers have already begun to enter the market.

“If the Europeans participate in its development in the quantities they promised, I think we will solve ‘shell hunger’ over time,” Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said in an interview with Ukrainian state media. ‘question.” Interview published on Friday.

Although Ukrainian manufacturers are banned from exporting weapons until the end of the war, Mr. Kamyshhin appears eager to compete with foreign arms producers.

A powerful speaker with a goatee and traditional topknot hairstyle. Ukrainian CossacksMr Kamyshin is one of what Mr Taylor calls a new generation of Ukrainian leaders – a 39-year-old young man who has risen rapidly through the ranks of government.

After Kamyshin was appointed minister in March 2023, he visited almost all weapons factories in Ukraine and said he found an industry that needed radical reform. In some places, workers are toiling in damaged factories; in others, rockets are being manufactured. hand.

Although he says production is moving more smoothly now, he still receives daily updates from critical assembly lines to quickly identify faults and fix them quickly.

“We’re moving things faster and cheaper, and they work,” Kamesin said in an interview, both as a promotion of domestically produced weapons and as a discussion of foreign investment.

“One day we will join you and NATO,” he said confidently, “so if you purchase from us, you are building capabilities that will one day be part of the joint capability. So why not invest in your joint What about ability?”? “

Vladislav Golovin and Alexandra Mykolysin Contributed reporting.

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