US, partners meeting on Sept. 28 on industrial strategies for arming Ukraine


Ukraine needs more weapons, and the US-led coalition is trying to figure out how to make it happen. (Getty images)

WASHINGTON — US and foreign armament directors will meet on Sept. 28 to discuss how the international community can keep weapons flowing to Ukraine, including how to mitigate production constraints that have surfaced since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a senior US defense official said today

Bill LaPlante, the US undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, will lead the first meeting of national armament directors in Brussels, which will include more than 40 members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Other US officials from the Joint Staff, US European Command and the Pentagon’s policy shop will also be in attendance.

The meeting “will include a call for production support for things like gun barrels, ball bearings, and steel casings,” as well as obsolescent parts and microchips, the official said. Both the US and other partner nations have previously identified shortfalls in those areas, and the upcoming meeting could provide a venue for countries to discuss potential suppliers or joint procurement of such materiel.

Aside from discussing ongoing production efforts, the official named two other major priorities:

  • The need for “Interchangable systems”—a term the Defense Department is using to describe off-the-shelf systems that can be modified in some way to meet Ukrainian capability gaps.
  • A long-term sustainment strategy for ensuring that Ukrainian equipment stays in good working order as the war proceeds

“We will also discuss what capabilities Ukraine is likely to need in the future, like long range fires and air defense, and how to posture the broad industrial base of the contact group to meet those needs,” the official said. The official declined to comment on specific technologies that could be proposed in those categories.

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“Even if we get even just sharing best practices, lessons learned, I’m actually looking forward to the discussion,” the official said. “We’ve gotten really positive feedback as we’ve been doing the preliminary work. So my hope is that, going out of this session, there’ll be much more willingness [and] ability for us to work together across countries to try to solve some of these challenges.”

In July, the defense minister from The Netherlands described the situation as everyone “standing in line at the ammunition factories” and called for more coordination among industry. Earlier this week, Norwegian defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram told reporters that Norway is considering dropping its weapons stockpiles below threshold to be able to continue supporting Ukrainian needs, with an eye on — eventually — increasing its own number of weapons down the road.

“We are more looking how we can increase the stocks from previous levels. But we are looking into if you can take even more from our stocks in the short term to support Ukraine. And to then to refill it,” he said. “Obviously we want to increase that even more, but maybe in the short term, we are donating.”

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