Rheinmetall eyes increase ammunition production and HIMARS production in Germany

DUsseldorf (Reuters) – Germany’s Rheinmetall is ready to increase production of tank and artillery ammunition to meet strong demand in Ukraine and the West, and may start producing HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in Germany, the chief executive of German arms company Rheinmetall said. Reuters.

He spoke days before Germany’s defense industry chiefs met new defense minister Boris Pistorius for the first time, though the exact date has not yet been announced.

With the meeting, Pistorius aims to start talks on how to speed up arms purchases and increase ammunition supplies in the long term after nearly a year of arms donations to Ukraine. The stocks of the German army were depleted.

Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) It manufactures a range of defense products, but it is probably best known for manufacturing the 120mm gun for the Leopard 2 tank.

“We can produce 240,000 rounds of tank ammunition (120 mm) per year, which is more than what the whole world needs,” Papberger said in an interview with Reuters.

He added that the production capacity of 155mm artillery shells could be increased to 450,000 to 500,000 annually, which would make Rheinmetall the largest producer of both types of ammunition.

In 2022, Rheinmetall will manufacture 60,000 to 70,000 rounds of tank and artillery shells, according to Papperger, who said production could be ramped up immediately.

Demand for these munitions has skyrocketed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, not only because of their extensive use on the battlefield, but also because Western militaries are refilling their stocks, and preparing for what they see as a growing threat from Moscow.

Papberger said a new production line for medium-caliber ammunition, used for example by German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks in Ukraine, would start operating by the middle of the year.

Germany has been trying for months to find new ammunition for the Gebbard missile, which its army dismantled in 2010.

Himar production line in Germany?

At the same time, Rheinmetall is in talks with Lockheed Martin(LMT.N)the American company that manufactures the HIMARS (Highly Mobility Artillery Missile System) multiple-use missile launchers with Ukrainian forces, Papberger said.

“At the Munich Security Conference, we aim to conclude an agreement with Lockheed Martin to start production of HIMARS (in Germany),” he said, referring to the annual gathering of political and defense leaders in mid-February.

“We have the technology to produce the warheads as well as the rocket engines – and we have the trucks to mount the launchers on,” Babberger said, adding that the deal could spur investments of several hundred million euros that would be financed by Rheinmetall. Big part.

He said Rheinmetall was also looking to put a new powder plant into operation, possibly in the eastern German state of Saxony, but that the €700-800m investment would have to be paid for by the government in Berlin.

“The state should invest, and we contribute our technological expertise. In return, the state gets a share of the factory and the profits it makes,” Papberger suggested.

“This is an investment that is not feasible for the industry alone. It is an investment in national security, and therefore we need the federal state,” he said.

He pointed out that the factory is needed because the shortage in the production of special powders could be a bottleneck, hindering efforts to increase the production of tank and artillery shells.

A few days before the meeting with the new Minister of Defence, Papberger pushed for an increase in the German defense budget.

“The €51 billion in the defense budget will not be enough to buy everything that is needed. The money in the €100 billion in special funds has already been allocated – and partly inflation,” he said.

“100 billion euros sounds like a huge amount but we actually need a package of 300 billion euros to ask for everything that is needed,” he added, noting that the special fund of 100 billion does not include ammunition purchases.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany was €20 billion short of reaching the NATO target for stockpiling munitions, according to a defense source.

To fill the ammunition gap alone, Papberger estimates that the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) would need to invest three to four billion euros annually.

In talks with the minister, the Chief of Defense hoped for a shift toward more sustainable long-term planning in German procurement, stretching out several years into the future, as industry needed to be able to make its own timely arrangements.

“What we are doing at the moment is actually stockpiling for war: last year we financed 600 to 700 million euros for goods,” Papberger said. “We have to get away from this crisis management – it’s crisis management when you buy (raw materials and other things) without a contract – and get into a regular routine.”

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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