Belarusian shells may not be on time for the war

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Ammunition production in Belarus (when and if it begins) is unlikely to be directly related to the current Russian-Ukrainian war.

According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Minsk plans to commence the production of artillery shells and rockets, specifically:

  • to initially produce components for 152mm and 122mm shells, evolving to complete ammunition manufacture;
  • to assemble 122-mm, 220-mm and 300-mm rockets from imported parts.

According to some reports, a Belarusian delegation will soon visit Iran to discuss the organisation of the ammunition production cycle to support Russia, which is beginning to experience shortages.

However, linking ammunition production in Belarus to the Russian-Ukrainian war seems doubtful, and the analysis of Ukrainian intelligence tends to support this.

  • Russia has the necessary skills required to produce ammunition in the above calibres, so it would be the logical partner/donor for the technologies needed if Minsk were doing Moscow’s bidding.
  • Organising ammunition assembly at scale using imported components will require significant logistical effort and time, whereas Russia already has a production base, personnel and laboratories. Nothing prevents the Russian military-industrial complex from organising the assembly of ammunition using Iranian/imported components if Russian manufacturers have insufficient capacity to increase the production of parts.
  • Based on Ukrainian experience, creating a complete production line for small arms (a more straightforward task) can take up to three years and require up to USD 500 million of investment, even when not subject to the international sanctions that apply to Belarus. A project like this, in Belarus, is an expensive and long-term initiative that may not be effective until the post-war period.
  • Minsk turned to Iran and not to political partners with production skills for Soviet-caliber ammunition (Serbia, Pakistan, China and, most importantly, Russia). It can be assumed that this is a forced decision.

If Ukrainian intelligence information regarding Belarusian military-industrial plans to create an ammunition industry proves correct, the project cannot be directly linked to Russian interests and the current Russian-Ukrainian war. Russia has not demonstrated any willingness to provide technical assistance in this area, and Western sanctions circumscribe possible sources of the necessary technologies.

However, the project may be commercially successful after the war’s end. Demand for artillery ammunition will remain high for some considerable time as, directly or indirectly, both combatants replenish and enlarge their stocks of shells.

Belarus in focus

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