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Pentagon replaces stocks of HIMARS launchers and rockets sent to Ukraine

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WASHINGTON ― The U.S. military has awarded Lockheed Martin $179 million in recent weeks to replace High-Motion Artillery Rocket Systems and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems it shipped from its own stockpiles to Ukraine, according to a dataset the Pentagon will release on Wednesday.

News of the $3.4 billion spending on Ukraine-related arms and equipment contracts since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war eight months ago coincided with Lockheed’s announcement Tuesday that it had increased production of HIMARS and GMLRS by nearly 60 percent. .

The systems became an important tool in Ukraine’s ability to strike bridges that Russia used to supply its troops, allowing Ukrainian forces to advance in Russian-controlled areas.

Reserve contract actions include $95 million in August and September for HIMARS, which plays a key role in Ukraine’s offensive against Russian troops in the east and south, and $84 million in September for GPS-guided GMLRS rockets. Range of more than 80 kilometers.

Due to the way the Pentagon presents the information, it is unclear how much funding is available to purchase new systems and how much includes investments in the industrial base to expand or accelerate production volumes. Contracts are not expected to provide immediate delivery.

Replacement contracts are expected to be delivered in a few years, as many capabilities delivered to Ukraine, such as advanced ammunition, have production times of two to three years. The Pentagon says in the fact sheet.

The firm’s CEO, Jim Taiclet, said on Tuesday during its third-quarter earnings call that Lockheed is ready to increase HIMARS production to 96 launchers per year from its current level of 60.

Taiclet said Lockheed has invested $65 million to pre-purchase parts, an expense the government is expected to repay to speed up production. The company expected demand for HIMARS and other products in Europe, which strengthened after the invasion of Russia.

“This happened without a contract or any other note or any return from the government,” Taiclet said of the investment. “We just went ahead and did it because we expected it to happen. So these parts are already being produced right now.”

The Pentagon announced this month that it will soon deliver four more HIMARS to Ukraine, bringing the total number sent to 20. Weeks ago, it announced plans to purchase 18 weapons for Ukraine through long-term contracts funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

“We truly believe that the most critical requirement for Ukraine right now is GMLRS munitions, which can achieve most of the targets they have set on Ukrainian soil. We saw them using them to great effect, Sasha Baker, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy, told reporters at the time.

In late August, for acquisition and maintenance, undersecretary of defense Bill LaPlante and the Army’s chief weapons buyer, Doug Bush, visited Lockheed’s HIMARS and GMLRS factory in Camden, Arkansas. LaPlante has announced the Pentagon’s plans to spend $200 million to expand and accelerate production of HIMARS and GMLRS.

Bush told Defense News this month that the Army wants to “quickly speed up” the production line for the GMLRS, which is one of the systems the Pentagon wants to see double or triple its current speed.

While the military has reduced the quantities of GLRS it ordered in 2018, Bush said the production line remained “pretty hot” and was “much easier to scale up” than if the line came to a complete standstill.

Washington is working to expand its defense industry capacity after the war. Lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would give the Pentagon quick supply powers, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin forced allied defense industry bases in Brussels last week to mobilize “to ignite production of systems to defend Ukraine.” we are meeting our own security needs.”

Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center for Military and Political Power at the Defense for Democracies Foundation, said maintaining ample levels of GMLRS ammunition is a key concern for the U.S. military, as is increasing its capacity to produce a range of ammunition. is a non-partisan think tank based in Washington.

“I really think we’re facing a US munitions production capacity crisis because we’ve been procuring minimum prices for too long to keep production lines up – and now we’re paying the price for it,” Bowman said. “It has no capacity to surge, and we need to supply Ukraine and Taiwan with what they need while providing enough to arm our own forces and make them ready.”

Jen Judson contributed to this report.

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He previously served as a Congress correspondent.