Sky News has learned that the UK is reviewing its ammunition stockpiles.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposed that past assumptions about what was needed to win a war were too small, Whitehall sources and defense industry sources said.
They asked Rishi Sunak for an increase in military spending to finance a massive expansion of total munition stocks or risk not being able support the Ukrainian armed force at the level required to sustain the war effort.
Sources said that they were afraid the prime minister, who was a former chancellor, wasn’t interested in defense and didn’t understand the urgency of rearming, despite major land wars raging across Europe. His expertise lies in finance.
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It is “really sobering,” a Whitehall source stated, speaking under condition of anonymity in order to discuss a sensitive topic before the government’s budget next year.
According to a source, Mr Sunak was slow to interact with Volodymyr Zilenskyy, Ukraine‘s wartime leader.
He is “not interested in security and defense.” The 10 people charged with this offense can barely access him. The President Zelenskyy’s visit was only briefly and lately engaged. It doesn’t matter if it’s not economic or domestic.
Sky News was told by a second Whitehall source: “He is a financial expert and cannot understand these things.”
A spokesperson for the government strongly denied these characterisations, and pointed out a prior increase in defense spending as evidence of Mr Sunak’s interest.
The spokesperson stated that “these claims are baseless” and were untrue.
“It was the prime minster who, as chancellor approved the 2020 spending review that gave the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the largest increase in defense investment since the Cold War.”
Sources said that the new review of stockpile requirements was part of a larger refresh of UK security policy.
They cautioned that any significant increase in the size of the population would require additional funding. This has not been possible.
Sources gave an indication of the extent of expansion that was needed.
According to a source in defence industry, there must be an increase of 100% in precision-guided weapons. Another source stated that the increase needed to be much greater.
The Ministry of Defence and Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) both know that ammunition stockpiles, including missiles and artillery rounds are inadequate, as a result of the lessons learned from Ukraine.
The problem is shared by all NATO members.
Russian and Ukrainian forces are firing artillery shells at one another at a pace not seen since the Korean War, with thousands to tens or thousands of rounds fired each day.
Jens Stoltenberg (head of NATO) has warned member countries that they are in a race of logistics to mobilize and expand their defense production capabilities.
Before Russia invaded, the British government had a strategy: keep a small number of warfighting supplies in stock – this is expensive and can lead to reliance on industry for more in times of crisis.
Sources say that the plan will not work because of the sheer amount of equipment required to sustain a war like the one in Ukraine.
According to an industry source, the government must forge a “special relationship” to the UK’s defense companies in order to increase production. This is crucially important as it requires contracts to speed up production.
According to an industry source, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace “is doing his part by banging his fist on the table”, said the source.
“The Ministry of Defence says it will need PS8bn toPS11bn in the next two-years to stay afloat. It’s all good rhetoric. My headline is “Where is the contract?”
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According to the source, there were lengthy conversations between DE&S and defence companies about replenishing weapons stocks and expanding production lines. However, it took too long due to uncertainty over funding.
Source: “Let’s get up and show the rest of the world that we take defense seriously.”
Britain has been a leader in Europe when it comes to supplying arms to Ukraine. This is so that Ukrainian troops can better fight Russian invaders.
This generosity has led to the British Army losing its ability to fight. The British Army had been weakened by decades of cost-saving measures since the end the Cold War.
The defence secretary informed Reuters on Wednesday that the UK has begun to “warm-up” its production lines in order to replace weapons sent by Ukraine and increase production artillery shells.
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He stated that shells can be made quickly, but that it was important to place orders. We have started placing orders over the past 10 months and that warms up the production lines.
However, the defense secretary wouldn’t be drawn on how negotiations with the Treasury were progressing to secure additional money for the military in March’s budget.
Mr Wallace responded to a question about whether Mr Sunak understood the need.
According to the government spokesperson, the UK is Europe’s largest defense spender.
The spokesperson stated that “The prime minister is clear about our commitment to protecting our people. This is why our armed forces will always be equipped and capable.”
Initial plans called for the Integrated Review to be refreshed on 7 March, ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s budget on 15 March.
Sky News reported that the date has been pushed back because the initial draft of the document did not adequately reflect the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on security and military assumptions.