Israel’s Defense Ministry is procuring $60 million worth of 155mm artillery shells in a deal aimed at bolstering Jerusalem’s access to shells that have proven crucial to the fighting in Ukraine.

The deal with Israel’s Elbit Systems, announced on July 31, comes months after the US allegedly withdrew some 300,000 155mm rounds from stocks in Israel to give to Kiev, stocks owned by the US. .but located in Israel and accessible to the Israeli military in case of emergencies.

According to a ministry statement, the “Procurement and Production Directorate (DOPP) signed a new agreement with Elbit Systems to procure dozens of 155mm artillery shells for use by the Israel Defense Forces Artillery Corps. The director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry, Major General Eyal Zamir, approved the deal valued at more than $60 million.” Delivery will take place next year.

“The artillery shell production line is essential, and the Ministry of Defense has invested heavily in it for many years. This agreement with Elbit Systems will bolster the capabilities and readiness of the IDF for various combat scenarios,” said the Director of the Ministry of Defense, DOPP, Zeev Landau.

Ukraine has been ripping up 155mm runs, firing thousands of shells daily. The conflict so far, including a stalled offensive, has highlighted the vast amounts of ammunition being used, straining global stockpiles. Like Israel, the US has invested heavily in increasing the production of 155mm ammunition, having already shipped around 1.5 million rounds to Ukraine.

In January, The New York Times reported that the US withdrew 155mm stockpiles in Israel, where that ammunition, along with a host of others, is prepositioned for US use in the Middle East in the Stockpile of War for Allies. -Installations from Israel. Though primarily for US employment, the reserve is also a “strategic boon” for Israel, as the Israeli government can legally access the stocks in times of crisis if the US allows it, according to a US Congressional report. . (Israel has requested and received permission twice since 1989, the 2023 report says.)

The Times reported that Israel was initially wary of the movement of the reserves, mainly out of fear that it could damage Jerusalem’s relations with Moscow. Israel has remained largely neutral in the Ukraine conflict, with Israel relying on Russia’s unofficial acquiescence to operate against militant groups in Syria.

Israel has continued to innovate at home with its 155mm shells. In 2016, the manufacturer IMI announced a new shell that was supposed to reduce the logistical arrangements for artillery battalions, essentially making individual shells do more than their predecessors. Elbit acquired IMI in 2018, and since then, Elbit has been rolling out its 155mm systems globally, including the ATMOS artillery system, which it introduced to the US in 2020. The Israeli military is also acquiring ATMOS to replace the M109 howitzers. Israel is also upgrading its own artillery with a new self-propelled gun called the Roem.

The company highlights that its advanced artillery minimizes the logistical footprint and provides more effective ammunition than in the past. The company did not comment on when the MoD last purchased 155mm from Elbit or IMI prior to its acquisition. 

Seth J Frantzman