There is growing concern about the need to get more ammunition — and in particular artillery ammunition — to Ukrainian forces more rapidly as heavy ground combat against Russian units is expected to unfold in the coming days, according to a US official.
While the United States is shipping 18 155mm towed howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds to Ukraine as part of the new security assistance announced by President Joe Biden's administration this week, even that amount could be expended within several days, raising the prospect of Ukraine forces running out of ammunition, the official said.
During some of the heavy earlier fighting, Ukrainian forces fired up to thousands of artillery rounds in a given day, the official noted.
Going forward, the US believes the likely Russia strategy is to move weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine from their current positions just north, and then encircle and cut off Ukraine forces that are there, the official said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are conducting daily phone calls with counterparts in the region to encourage them to ship more weapons and supplies to Ukraine as soon as possible.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon hosted the CEOs of the military’s eight largest prime contractors to figure out how to arm Ukraine faster.
The roundtable discussion, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, focused on the Pentagon’s objectives to keep supplying Ukraine with arms while also being able to maintain the readiness of US forces and support the defense of allies.