India has declined to take sides in the Ukraine-Russia war, but its munition has found its way to the battleground. Videos have surfaced from Ukraine about the Indian-made artillery ammunition being used by the Ukrainian forces.
Recent reports circulating amongst Russian and Ukrainian social media suggest that Ukraine has, in all likelihood, received Indian 155mm artillery shells. According to the information found on this TG account, these shells are compatible with the AHS Krab self-propelled howitzers supplied to Ukraine by Poland.
The news has come as the West is digging into old stocks and even considering the possibility of renovating expired shells to supply at least 200,000 155mm rounds each month to Ukraine. Though these are all workable band-aid solutions, as the West’s munitions production infrastructure strains to grow in 2024.
Ukrainian Front, a handle on social media X, posted photos and videos of 155 mm artillery shells being used by the Ukrainian forces. “Ukrainian military personnel work inside the Polish 155-mm self-propelled howitzer AHS Krab. It is interesting to note that this is the first time I have seen such 155 mm artillery shells,” the Ukrainian Front posted. The account has been a window into the Ukrainian battlefront.
⚡️🇺🇦Ukrainian military personnel work inside the 🇵🇱Polish 155-mm self-propelled howitzer AHS Krab. It is interesting to note that this is the first time I have seen such 155-mm artillery shells pic.twitter.com/xCtYf5Qac3
— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) December 30, 2023
The post piqued the interest of people observing the battle space. It was speculated that the munition was HE ERFB BT shells produced by the Munitions India Limited (MIL). MIL is a subsidiary of the Indian Ministry of Defense and a top manufacturer of a wide range of ammunition, not just 155mm but also 105mm and 125mm. Apart from artillery, the massive manufacturing company provides ammunition for several other military uses.
It is worth noting that India has been reluctant to supply ammunition to Ukraine or any Western countries to maintain neutrality in the war. The European media outlets have not negated the possibility of direct or indirect shipment from New Delhi to Kyiv.
The United Arab Emirates and Armenia have been the known customers of 155 mm shells. An unnamed European country, most probably Poland or Slovenia, recently purchased the artillery shells.
The other possibility that has been put forth is that the US obtained the 155mm ammo and then shipped it to Ukraine. This justification is supported by a US statement from October 2023 that emphasized its intention to increase the manufacturing of 155mm artillery ammunition worldwide. A 1.5 billion US dollar investment was suggested in this program, which would benefit Poland, India, Canada, and the US.
The US Army signed contracts with nine firms in the US, Canada, India, and Poland for each major component, material, or required production process “to maintain momentum for the goal of 80,000 projectiles per month by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2025.” Solar Industries India Ltd was among the nine firms awarded the contract.
Most Sought-After Big Guns In Ukraine-Russia War
The HE ERFB BB variant of the 155mm artillery shell has high explosive capability and an operating range of slightly over 38 kilometers. According to its technical specifications, the shell can operate well in a temperature range of -20 degrees Celsius to +60 degrees Celsius because of its user-friendly design.
During the Ukrainian conflict, one of the most sought-after artillery rounds is the 155 mm howitzer. Although the United States has already sent over 1.5 million rounds to Ukraine, Kyiv still needs more.
Essentially, the 155 mm round is a very big bullet with four parts: the detonating fuse, projectile, propellant, and primer. Each round is 155 mm, or 6.1 inches, in diameter, weighs around 100 pounds (45 kilograms), and is roughly 2 feet (60 centimeters) long. They are employed in howitzer systems, which tow massive cannons distinguished by the range of angles at which their barrels may be adjusted.
How did Indian 155mm artillery shells and propellant charge containers, land up in Ukraine with the AFU?
According to the Military Informant TC, most likely, the shells and charges were ordered from India by Slovenia, and then transferred to Ukraine.
My guess would be that… pic.twitter.com/GLKJKfLyj1
— Vijainder K Thakur (@vkthakur) January 3, 2024
Howitzers are highly sought after by ground troops to eliminate enemy targets from a safe distance since they can attack targets up to 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) away, depending on the kind of ammunition and firing mechanism deployed. The enemy doesn’t get much warning about the incoming firing.
Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian parliament who sits on the country’s wartime monitoring committee, stated last year that Ukraine uses about 6,000 to 8,000 155 mm rounds every day.
The number, though huge, pales in comparison to the estimated 40,000 howitzer rounds fired at them by the Russian forces. The US and allies have sent more than 2 million rounds of 155 ammunition to Ukraine in support of its effort to repel Russia’s invasion more than 600 days ago.
By 2025, America will have produced a minimum of 100,000 155mm shells per month; this means that Europe will have to increase its domestic 155mm shell output by 150% by 2024.
With conflict starting between Israel and Palestine, the US has been sending the munition to Israel as well.
Kyiv has agreed to jointly manufacture vital 155mm artillery shells in Ukraine with two American firms. The production is unlikely to start for at least two years.
Germany recently gave the nod to purchasing 155 mm artillery ammunition worth more than US $ 400 million from Rheinmetall and an unnamed French company. The ammunition is intended to be sent to Ukraine.
According to a statement released by Rheinmetall on December 18, the German army ordered several tens of thousands of shells worth at least €100 million, or $110 million, for the Ukrainian armed forces under an existing framework arrangement.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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