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Rocket motor scarcity in the US hampers weapons for Ukraine – WSJ

Rocket motor scarcity in the US hampers weapons for Ukraine – WSJ

The rocket engine shortage in the US is hindering the production of rockets for HIMARS for Ukraine. Supply chain issues are impeding efforts by American arms manufacturers to produce more weapons for Ukraine and replenish stocks for the US and its allies, particularly with regards to GMLRS rockets and HIMARS systems.

According to The Wall Street Journal, large American arms manufacturers are increasing production longer than expected despite billions of dollars in support from the Pentagon. Defense companies plan to fulfill contracts by purchasing equipment abroad to produce more in-demand artillery shells.

Lockheed Martin Corp. announced on April 18 that sales of its long-range rockets, known as Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), declined in the last quarter compared to the same period last year. The US has sent hundreds of these rockets to Ukraine, which is defending its territory from Russia.

Lockheed Martin reported sales growth but stated that the shortage of key components, such as rocket motors for GMLRS and other rockets, continues to hinder production growth.

When President Joe Biden visited the Lockheed Martin plant in Troy in May 2022, he and CEO Jim Taiclet promised to double the production of Javelin missiles by 2024.

According to the company and military sources, these goals have been pushed back to 2026, as well as the goal to increase production of GMLRS rockets and HIMARS launchers.

“We thought we could achieve this sooner,” said Lockheed Martin’s Chief Financial Officer, Jay Malave in an interview.

Defense company executives have stated that rocket engines remain a problem for rocket manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is now hired to produce more rocket engines and supplement the sole single supplier, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that it had entered into a $216 million deal with Aerojet to modernize production lines. Some defense officials have said that the Pentagon is not rushing to enter into new contracts and provide incentives to increase production, but the US Defense Department denies this. Pentagon’s chief procurement officer, Bill LaPlante, said last month that the replenishment and expansion of ammunition stocks to prepare for any potential conflict with China over Taiwan will take 5-6 years.

This year, the Pentagon has awarded several new contracts worth about $1.2 billion related to supplies to Ukraine or replenishment of stocks. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, contracts worth about $11 billion have been signed, but they are to be paid out over several years. Most of this year’s contracts are for 155mm artillery shells, with companies like General Dynamics Corp. awarded contracts to increase production. Other companies have won contracts to search for foreign ammunition stocks that the Pentagon can buy and send to Ukraine. The rest of the Pentagon’s contracts are related to military transport, including wheeled Humvees, drones, spare parts, and training.

GMLRS and PAC-3 rockets by Lockheed Martin, used in Patriot air defense systems, are among those intended for complex procurement. The Pentagon is seeking to encourage industry to invest in additional production capacity, which could potentially lead to cost savings.

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