Russia Buying Artillery Ammunition From North Korea


According to US intelligence, Russia is purchasing millions of rounds of artillery and missile ammunition to support Putin’s war against Ukraine.

According to recently declassified American intelligence reports, Russia is purchasing millions of artillery rockets and shells from North Korea. This indicates that sanctions have severely limited its supply chain and made it more difficult for Moscow to purchase military supplies from pariah countries.

According to a U.S. official, Russia would be expected to buy additional North Korean equipment in the future, even if they do not have short-range rockets or artillery shells.

Some Russian artillery shells have been shown to be less effective due to poor storage or inadequate maintenance of their ammunition stocks. Artillery shells should explode in the air just before hitting the ground to be as effective as possible at wounding enemy troops. The crater created by Russian artillery troops over the summer revealed that many of their shells were exploding onto the ground, which reduced the damage to Ukrainian trenches.

Although the state of North Korean artillery isn’t clear, there are large stocks of ammunition.

This story has many moving parts. Let’s take a look at each one.

According to reports, Russia has fired tens of thousands of artillery and rocket rounds every day since February 24, according to Russian media. At the height of fighting in Donbas, June (see Putin’s War Week 14), Russia was firing tens of thousands of rocket rounds and artillery rounds. Russia fired 60,000 rounds per day according to Advanced Artillery, Missing General, and Grind Without Visible End. Russia’s armor and infantry forces have been exposed to be incredibly bad for many reasons. These have been discussed since the Cold War. Russia has also not requested national mobilization. This means that draftees cannot be sent to Ukraine and all fighting must be done “contract”. Every Russian attack looks almost like Operation Bagration. The objective area is then pulverized by artillery and ground forces arrive to seize control.

Russia burns through over a million rounds per month of rocket and artillery ammunition in combat usage and loses to Ukrainian long-range fires. This is the best-case scenario.

People claim that Russia is preventing Ukraine from buying North Korean supplies because Ukraine has fewer weapons that use the exact caliber rockets and artillery ammunition than Russia. This seems unlikely to me. Russia and North Korea are the only two countries that produce this ammunition in large quantities. It’s hard to imagine Ukraine buying artillery ammunition from North Korea. China is gradually phasing out Russian-caliber artillery and replacing it with more capable ammunition. This will reduce its ability to assist Russia with ammunition unless the guns that used it are replaced. According to reports, NATO nations searched the globe for artillery rounds compatible with Russian guns in order to supply Ukraine. This coincides with NATO’s decision to arm Ukraine with guns that fire NATO standard ammunition.

Is this a sign that Russia is in serious financial trouble? This is not a complete explanation. The Russians believe they are unable to produce enough ammunition to wage war in the immediate future.

According to the Royal United Services Institute estimates, Russia can produce approximately 2,000,000 rounds per year of standard 152mm artillery bullets. This ammunition can be used to support combat operations for two months at current rates of usage. According to the same study, Russia has six years’ worth of ammunition, accumulated since 1991. However, things are not always as they seem. One of the analysts who prepared this report stated that the number of empty projectiles can be made. It does not include filling them up with explosives or propellants. His entire apology can be found here. However, it points out the danger of not taking any think tank-produced material seriously.

The New York Times article suggests that the Russians may have found that their war reserve ammunition wasn’t properly maintained. I have not seen anything about the Russian defense system that suggests they lack the energy or competence to create and implement a consistent program for rotating war reserve ammunition as training stocks. Properly storing ammunition over long periods of time can lead to problems like high dud rates, hypersensitivity, and unplanned explosives.

There is a second dog in the kennel, but it hasn’t yet bounded. The average NATO howitzer can fire through its tube approximately 10,000 rounds. The gun tube will need to be refurbished at a depot. The gun’s accuracy, range, and rate of fire will all be affected if you exceed its service life. The gun tube breaking or metal fatigue can lead to embarrassing things.

Major subcomponents, in addition, to wear on the gun tube need replacement or refurbishment. The Donbas offensive would have removed 180 Russian howitzers from service and allowed them to be rebuilt. This is impossible. It is impossible to pull 100 guns out of combat every month in order to rebuild.

As I have previously pointed out, Russia has been disadvantaged by Western aid to Ukraine. Ukraine is recycling Russian-made junk and replacing it with real weapons. It also draws on Western Europe’s manufacturing capabilities for ammunition. Russia, on the other hand, used its first-line equipment during the initial invasion. It is now replacing weapons and ammunition with war stocks.

Although this is a positive sign for South Korea that Russia has purchased artillery from North Korea and rocket ammunition, it does not indicate Russia’s ability or willingness to maintain an operational pace anywhere near the level of the past six months. The problem is not solved by North Korean ammunition. The supply chain that moves North Korean ammunition from factory to front across six time zones is not only less efficient than Russia’s production lines but is also more complex.

If Russia cannot negotiate a ceasefire that secures its gains, I predict that Russia will return to the February 2022 line or worse by the end of this year.

I hope someone is also looking at the use rate of artillery, rocket ammunition, and other weapons in this war to ensure that we have the manufacturing capabilities necessary to counter the threat from China.