ROME — Ammunition makers are not to blame for Europe’s failure to deliver one million shells to Ukraine, the continent’s industry association has claimed in response to accusations from European defense officials.
European munition manufacturers were singled out for responsibility on Tuesday as European Union officials and member state defense ministers revealed the bloc would not deliver on a promise made this spring to dispatch one million much needed artillery shells to Kyiv within a year.
Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren pointed the finger, stating, “We have all signed contracts. We’ve done joint procurement. So industry now has to deliver. It has to step up its game to produce more.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell went a step further, alleging firms were still exporting 40 percent of their production around the world, thus diverting precious shells from the defense of Ukraine against Russia.
The allegations however drew a detailed rebuttal from the Aerospace, Security and Defence Industries Association of Europe, a trade group representing sectors across the continent.
In response to a request for comment from Defense News, the group said it had not had enough time to get ready to fulfill orders for Ukraine and was in any case busy with replenishing the stocks of its domestic customers.
“The double challenge for industry today – after decades-long underinvestment and the subsequent reduction of manufacturing capacities – is to ramp up production both to support Ukraine and to replenish and reinforce the stocks of armed forces in Europe (ammunition is only one element),” the association said in a statement.
“But this needs time – more time than originally envisaged by EU political leaders – as it is a complex process that requires meticulous long-term planning and consideration of various factors to ensure its success, efficiency and viability,” it added.
What’s needed to allow companies to invest for long term production hikes is more long-term contracts, the association said.
“Industry has already significantly expanded its production capacities and increased production as much as possible under adverse circumstances (supply chain bottlenecks, swelling raw material costs, shortages of qualified workforce, burdensome regulation and administrative processes, paucity of actual orders),” the association’s statement reads.
“Long-term investments in further expansion of production capacities must however come along with long-term contracts from European customers. Contracts of this scale are not concluded within days but need careful consideration from both customers and industrial providers.”
The EU planned hoped to reach the one million shells target by earmarking €1 billion (U.S. $1.1 billion) earlier this year to compensate members for the shells they donated to Ukraine from their stocks, plus another €1 billion to fund the joint purchase of more munitions from EU states and Norway.
Borrell’s accusation that firms were still diverting stocks to export customers was also challenged by the association.
“Contracts cannot simply be cancelled or changed unilaterally, as that would severely damage the credibility of European defense industry as a supplier. This is a serious risk, given that production for non-European destinations has been vital for maintaining European manufacturing capacities during the past decades at a certain minimum level.
“Therefore, the reorientation of production capacities is a complex process that needs strong and long-term political support,” the association said.
“The political objective to deliver one million artillery shells within a year seemed very ambitious already at the time of its announcement, in view of the enormous challenge it presented,” the association said, adding, “It is possible to produce and deliver this amount of shells, even if it takes a bit longer.”
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.