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Russia is running out of new rockets and artillery shells and may need to rely on ‘unpredictable’ decades-old ammo instead, US military official says

A Ukrainian soldier of an artillery unit fires towards Russian positions outside Bakhmut on November 8, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.A Ukrainian soldier of an artillery unit fires towards Russian positions outside Bakhmut on November 8, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

  • Russian forces are quickly using up their arsenal of fresh ammunition, a US military official said.
  • Because of this, Moscow’s troops may have to fire questionable, decades-old munitions instead.  
  • Russia likely won’t be able to keep up its current rate of artillery and rocket fire past early next year.

Russian forces are quickly burning through their stockpiles of fresh ammunition, and they may soon be forced to use older, unreliable munitions instead, a senior US military official said. 

Stocks of fully serviceable — or new — ammunition are “rapidly dwindling” and putting pressure on Russia to use explosives that are in “degraded conditions,” the official told reporters during a Tuesday briefing, adding that Moscow likely won’t be able to sustain its current rate of artillery and rocket fire past early 2023.  

For this reason, the official said, Russian forces have to assess their tolerance for “increased failure rates, unpredictable performance” and if the “degraded munitions” need to be restored. But since Russia has already shown over the course of the war that it will draw from an “aging” stockpile of weapons, armor, and munitions, there are indications that the country is willing to risk using ammunition that was manufactured more than 40 years ago, the official said. 

Western intelligence previously assessed that Russia has pulled obsolete tanks out of storage and outfitted its soldiers with Soviet-era rifles that were rendered barely usable due to poor storage over the years.  

If rockets and artillery shells are kept in storage for a long period of time without proper care and maintenance, they have the potential to degrade, putting them at risk to explode when they’re not supposed to or simply not explode at all.

“In other words,” the senior military official said, “you load the ammunition, and you cross your fingers and hope it’s going to fire. Or, when it lands that it’s going to explode.”

The official added that the “Russian military will very likely struggle to replenish its reserve of fully-serviceable artillery and rocket ammunition through foreign suppliers, increased domestic production and refurbishment.”

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the top US intelligence official, delivered similar remarks earlier in December and said that Russia is burning through its munitions stockpiles faster than the country’s arms makers can replace them.

And as Russia expends its stockpiles of artillery and precision-guided munitions in Ukraine, it continues to face sweeping and hard-hitting international sanctions. US officials have said this pressure on Russia is why Moscow is turning to countries like Iran and North Korea for help. 

“This is why it’s not surprising that they’re reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea to try to obtain some more dependable ammunition,” the senior military official said Tuesday of Russia’s struggle to restock its arsenal of munitions.

A top UK envoy said Friday at the United Nations that Russia is looking to secure “hundreds” of ballistic missiles from Iran, and in return, it is offering the country “unprecedented” military and technical support.

Iran previously provided Russia with a variety of combat drones, including the Shahed-136 — a suicide drone which for weeks this past fall became a go-to weapon for Moscow as it carried out attacks against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, specifically in the energy sector.

Read the original article on Business Insider