152-mm artillery shells for Ukraine’s Soviet-era howitzers comprise most of Ukraine’s arsenal and have long been in short supply. The critical shortage of Soviet-era artillery rounds forced Ukraine’s Armed Forces to rely heavily on the artillery provided by Western allies. As a result, Ukraine’s artillery started using 155-mm caliber shells more.

Currently, Ukraine has more 155-mm shells but far fewer guns that can fire them and significantly more Soviet-era howitzers that run low on 152-mm shells. At the current pace Ukraine is firing, the stocks of 155-mm shells could soon run out too, while Ukrain’es Western allies struggle to ramp up the ammunition production to help Ukraine repel Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“Current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned in February 2023.

The countries with stocks of Soviet-era 152-mm and 122-mm artillery rounds are largely former Soviet republics, which are hesitant to sell ammunition to Ukraine because of their close ties with Russia, the Washington Post claimed. Some African and Middle Eastern countries, which have received weapons and ammunition from Russia over the years, also have stocks of Soviet-era shells that Ukraine urgently needs to defend itself.

However, it is unknown whether any of the African or Asian countries have delivered ammunition to Ukraine. According to the Washington Post, a few former Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe can manufacture the 152-mm and 122-mm shells but not at the scale and speed Ukraine needs on the battlefield.

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry spox Yuriy Sak, Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia have already agreed to produce the shells Ukrainian Soviet-era guns lack. It is not clear yet how long it will take for the needed shells to be produced and reach the battlefield in Ukraine.

“The main issue of concern is sustainability,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “Former Warsaw Pact countries dismantled their production lines of Soviet-caliber ammunition since they became members of NATO. We badly need this Soviet-caliber ammunition, so the question is how to restore production lines.”

The United States has searched worldwide to help Ukraine overcome the shortage of Soviet-era artillery rounds, according to the Washington Post. On 4 March 2023, as part of a larger military aid package, the US Pentagon announced it would provide an unspecified number of artillery shells, including Soviet-era 122-mm rounds that the US does not produce.

Ukraine has to hold back ammunition for a planned counteroffensive. Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield told the Washington Post what they have now is enough to repel daily Russian assaults but not enough to counterattack.

Russia is still firing more than Ukraine every day. However, Ukrainian officials said they have noticed their enemy become increasingly conservative, a sign Russia may also be facing a shortage, the Washington Post reported.