Washington and Kyiv are working to ramp up Ukraine’s weapons manufacturing capabilities amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. This week, the two countries signed an agreement to accelerate the co-production of Ukrainian armaments.
“Ukraine gives an opportunity to shorten the innovation cycle,” said Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, in an interview with Nick Schifrin for PBS News. Kamyshin has visited Washington to promote business opportunities for American defense companies. Meanwhile, the American-Ukrainian conference on mutual defense, held on December 6-7, gathered 350 representatives from American, Ukrainian, and European industries.
“We have proved that we can be good in defense tech, and that lessons learned from our defense tech would be important for the U.S,” Kamyshin said.
The minister highlighted Ukraine’s engineering capabilities and the ability for weapons systems to be tested in real-world conditions as incentives for US firms. “It’s a great opportunity to test your weapon and ammunition in the greatest war of generations and to make it better,” he said.
One area of collaboration is FrankenSAM, a system that combines various air defense capabilities into a “do-it-yourself defense” already being used on the battlefield. Kamyshin said production can be quickly scaled up to achieve the ultimate goal: hitting Russian territory.
“We already have success with long-range missiles in Ukraine, but I would not speak more about that,” he hinted.
Drones are another part of the equation. “You have probably seen that Moscow never sleeps, Sochi never sleeps, and many other Russian cities would not sleep quite soon.”
Schifrin pressed Kamyshin on whether Ukraine had fully mobilized its economy for wartime production on the level of Russia. Kamyshin conceded more can be done but said major defense factories already operate 24/7, all state funds go directly to the war effort, and the industry is essentially rebuilding itself.
Ukraine’s defense industry needs to be strengthened for both its current fights and long-term security. A $60 billion US aid package that would help on that front awaits congressional approval amid partisan disputes.
Ukraine forges partnerships with two US defense firms for domestic ammunition production
According to Kamyshin, Ukraine is actively pursuing the expansion of its domestic weapons production in collaboration with prominent American defense contractors. Kamyshin disclosed that agreements have been finalized with two US companies for in-country manufacturing of essential 155mm ammunition.
“We have agreements with two leading American companies for the joint production of 155 caliber ammunition in Ukraine. The implementation of these projects will take years,” Kamyshin announced during an appearance on Ukraine’s national telethon, Radio Liberty reports.
He explained that setting up manufacturing of 155mm rounds is a lengthy process, taking “at least two, maximum three years” before the facility is operational. However, Kamyshin stressed the urgency of beginning the endeavor without delay.
“To launch this production, we need technologies that our partners have. Ukraine has never produced these calibers. So the sooner we start, the sooner we will have these solutions up and running for the Defense Forces,” the minister said.
Kamyshin highlights Ukraine’s long-term vision
Kamyshin’s revelations come on the heels of a major US-Ukraine Defense Conference held in Washington D.C. earlier this week. The high-profile gathering of over 350 representatives from the American, Ukrainian, and European defense sectors underscored the strengthened cooperation between Kyiv and its Western allies.
“I am grateful to each of you in this hall for standing with us for the past 651 days of this Great War. Your support is crucial for us,” began Kamyshin in his speech at the DFNC1 conference. “My mission is to develop the defense industry in Ukraine. And industry, above all, provides opportunities for business. The opportunity to rapidly expand production capacities, as regulation in Ukraine for the defense industry is most favorable for manufacturers.”
During the conference, Ukraine’s defense ministry signed an important memorandum of understanding with the United States signaling the countries’ commitment to building up Ukraine’s defense industrial base.
In a statement, the Biden Administration emphasized the joint goal of developing reliable and sustainable domestic armament production capabilities in Ukraine. Officials said efforts would focus on reflecting Ukraine’s culture of innovation, supplying urgent battlefield needs, and promoting long-term Ukrainian security and economic success.
Early action items concentrating on institutionalizing industry-state relationships and dialogue were a starting point of the pact. But cementing joint manufacturing ventures between Ukrainian and American defense contractors, as seen in this week’s ammunition production agreements, is a vital component in the future.
“We all know that the war has depleted stocks and warehouses worldwide – these warehouses will need replenishing. Ukraine, on the other hand, offers more long-term perspectives, and that is where our uniqueness lies,” Kamyshin said in his speech.
“I am confident that after the war concludes with Ukraine’s victory, together with you, we will be able to claim a share of the Russian arms export market,” he concluded.
Ukraine boosts domestic manufacturing of drones and forges collaboration with Italy
Earlier this week Kamyshin disclosed the primary production hub for the drones utilized by Ukrainian forces. Kamyshin expressed satisfaction that most drones procured for defense purposes are now manufactured within Ukraine, with only a handful being imported.
“The Ministry of Defense’s escalation in drone acquisitions is commendable, and I am pleased that an overwhelming majority of the drones purchased for defense forces are locally produced in Ukraine,” stated Minister Kamyshin in the announcement.
According to Kamyshin, only a few models are now imported, signifying a remarkable shift towards self-sufficiency in drone manufacturing.
“Our production capabilities are already sufficient to deliver a respectable quantity of domestically manufactured drones, ranging from the smallest and most cost-effective FPV to long-range analogs,” he added.
Highlighting the stability in procurement contracts, Kamyshin emphasized that consistent agreements would enable the further expansion of production capacities. This move aligns with Ukraine’s broader strategy to reduce reliance on external sources for essential defense equipment.
Kamyshin also revealed that Ukrainian and Italian defense manufacturers are joining forces to advance the defense industry in Ukraine. He reaffirmed this alliance after a meeting with Italy’s Deputy Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Luciano Portolano, along with government representatives and leading Italian manufacturers across various sectors.
During the discussions, agreements were reached to collaborate on the development of the aviation sector, airspace protection, demining efforts, as well as the production of vehicles and technologies. Italian researchers will join forces with Ukrainian developers to expedite the achievement of necessary outcomes.
Five Italian companies have already joined the Defense Industries Alliance: Leonardo S.p.A., Fincantieri, Elettronica, Iveco Defense Vehicles, and FAE Group S.p.A. The Alliance, boasting 74 companies from over 20 countries, plays a pivotal role in fostering international collaboration in the defense industry.
With Ukraine’s weapons capabilities proving effective in its war against invading Russian forces, Kyiv is keenly working to reinforce its domestic defense industry however possible. This week’s high-level meeting of leaders reaffirmed Ukraine’s expanding alignment with Western powerhouses to fortify not only its immediate fight, but also its self-sufficiency and strength far into the future.
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