US Army awards General Dynamics $218M 155mm artillery shells contract

On September 29, 2023, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation, secured a substantial contract from the US Army to expand its production of 155mm M1128 artillery shells. The contract is valued at $218 million and is part of a broader $974 million multiyear contract awarded jointly to General Dynamics and American Ordnance, based in Middletown, Iowa. Under this contract, both companies will compete for orders related to loading, assembling, and packing processes for the M1128 artillery shells, as announced by the Department of Defense.
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XM133 155mm artillery shell produced by General Dynamics (Picture source: General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems)

The manufacturing of these artillery shells will take place at General Dynamics' factory located in Camden, Arkansas. This contract expansion reflects the US Army's ongoing efforts to modernize and increase the production of 155mm artillery ammunition. Kevin Fahey, Senior Vice President and General Manager of General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems commented on the company's role as a key industrial partner in supporting the US Army's objectives to enhance artillery production.

This announcement follows a similar contract awarded to General Dynamics in February 2023 for the loading, assembling, and packing of M795 projectiles at a rate of 20,000 rounds per month. When combined, these two contracts will contribute to a total capacity of 50,000 rounds per month by 2025, including the production of vital base bleed assemblies for the projectile.

One noteworthy aspect of this contract is the incorporation of modernized processes and state-of-the-art air-cooling techniques aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of the artillery shell production process. Additionally, these techniques are expected to reduce hazardous waste, aligning with more environmentally responsible methods.

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems is a global leader in the design, engineering, and production of munitions, energetics, weapons, armaments, and missile subsystems. The company plays a significant role in supplying advanced solutions across a range of product segments applied in various strategic and tactical operations.

In response to Ukraine's urgent demand for 155mm artillery shells amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, the United States is preparing to significantly increase production. General Patrick Ryder, spokesperson for the US Department of Defense, announced during a briefing at the Pentagon on August 10, 2023, that the US is aiming to achieve a monthly production rate exceeding 80,000 shells as early as next year. This comes after the US has already supplied Ukraine with over 2 million 155mm artillery shells since the beginning of the conflict.

The 155mm artillery shells are of significant importance in the current conflict in Ukraine, where artillery plays a substantial role. These shells are utilized in howitzer systems, characterized by their wide range of firing angles. They can be configured in various ways, including highly explosive, precision-guided, armor-penetrating, or fragmentation-producing configurations.

While the increase in artillery shell production is aimed at meeting the demands of high-intensity warfare, it is not without controversy. General Ryder highlighted that the United States and other nations are simultaneously continuing deliveries of submunition munitions to Ukraine, a move that has garnered mixed reactions internationally.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is resulting in a continued high demand for these artillery shells, as the use of artillery remains extensive. The estimated consumption rate has risen to 8,000 shells per day, necessitating an increase in the production of artillery shells by the United States to address the urgent requirements of Ukrainian forces.