We spend a lot on weapons, but is it wise?

Bain Consulting & The company assesses in its report she noted The Sky News TV station reports that Russia currently produces three times as much ammunition as Western countries, and the unit of 152mm shell used in Russian artillery is four times less than its Western counterparts.

Although the scale race can be won over time, the issue of costs seems to be a more pressing problem, even if not perceived by public opinion. Today, European NATO countries spend US$380 billion on their armed forces, which compares with the amount spent by the Kremlin’s Stockholm Sipri. Assessments At $140 billion this year, that represents a safe bet. The picture changes dramatically when we take into account the relationship between purchasing power and spending. The cost differential outlined in the case of artillery ammunition can be extended to the entire defense sector, which appears to be an obvious simplification, but acceptable for journalistic purposes, as the Russian Federation currently spends more on weapons than Europe. Of course, together with the United States, NATO has the largest military budget, but in the case of European countries the picture is not so optimistic. Also, we are building expensive combat systems, which significantly reduces our capabilities. This is evident in the example of Berlin’s recent decisions regarding German artillery capability. Well, as David Axe, a military commentator for the British newspaper The Telegraph, wrote, “Berlin has an ambitious plan to double its artillery capacity.” Today The Bundeswehr has 121 self-propelled howitzers and 36 rocket launchers, and aims to have 289 howitzers and 76 launchers in its arsenal by 2035. In this context, it is worth paying attention to the distant date (in 11 years) of achieving these goals, but it is worth comparing these capabilities with the Russians today, as the British expert does. The Muscovites now had about 4,000 troops at the front. Howitzers, towed and self-propelled, mean that the entire NATO capability is small. During the 28 months of the war, the Russians lost about 1,350 artillery systems and Ukraine lost about 500, which is not a small number, since at the beginning of the war it had 1,000 units of equipment. Both warring parties supplemented these losses with long-term stockpiles and equipment produced during the conflict (Russia) or with equipment obtained from the West and built in recent months (Ukraine). Ax calmly notes that Germany’s current artillery capability, 157 fire divisions, is “absurd” because the Russians lost more howitzers in just 5 months than the Bundeswehr had in stock during the war. The situation is no better in Great Britain, and the British commentator is prudently silent. The problems related to the scale of ammunition production, often discussed in the West recently, mask another problem, namely the shortage of equipment. The example of the Bundeswehr is worth noting, because the speed of filling gaps is often affected by two factors – the ability of the industry to produce new howitzers and the volume of orders. The latter is directly related to the unit cost of purchased systems – they are more expensive and more complex, they take longer to build and government-mandated volumes are smaller. This phenomenon can be clearly seen in the example of potential navies of NATO countries. Last year, US War College Professor John R. When Deni pondered what to do to unite the Baltic Sea, “One of the first tasks is to reverse the long-term trend in the armed forces of NATO countries. How [argumentował] (https://carnegieendowment.org/research/2023/12/is-the-baltic-sea-a-nato-lake?lang=en) John R. Deni noted that “coalition forces in the Baltic Sea are generally small in number and gross tonnage. In some cases, the Allies have sought to replace less efficient, older naval bases with fewer, but more capable, new ones. However, other priorities – particularly in the land and air domains – have repeatedly trumped maritime priorities. By building new ships, we are reducing their number due to national force development plans, which has resulted in a recruitment crisis in all European NATO countries’ navies, according to a recent US report RAND think tank If we take into account large combat bases (cruisers, destroyers, battleships), Russia has more of them in the Baltic Sea than all NATO countries with access to this area. Of course, this does not determine the relationship of forces, especially in the case of a small sea in which the power of coastal artillery also plays an important role, but it is certainly difficult to call it the “lake” of the North Atlantic Treaty. system. This battle is still ahead of us, especially in light of emerging technological changes. From an interview given to the media by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Dmytro Bledenchuk Navy His units appear to have sunk, destroyed and rendered unserviceable 28 Russian ships of the Black Sea Fleet. This is 1/3 of the power, and this victory was able to achieve a significant strategic breakthrough, blocking the Black Sea ports and restructuring the export of Ukrainian bulk goods, the volume of which is now comparable to before. – War times. The irony of this situation is that Ukraine practically does not have a navy, and the forces that surrendered to Pledenchuk used unmanned systems, were attacked by missiles or carried out special forces operations. As a result, using cheap strike systems, the Ukrainians were able to inflict losses on the Russians, which were 100 times more than the cost of their construction. The obvious conclusion to be drawn on this basis is that to create an advantage, especially in a long war, we must develop large quantities of cheap and effective weapons. Otherwise, the enemy will exhaust our economic and, therefore, military potential. US Army General Matthew Van Wagenen and Colonel Arnold B. David writes about this. My opinion If we take into account the structure of arms production costs, the West stands to lose. According to them, “the West is on the wrong side of the cost curve. Imagine the defense industry as a normal business. In economics, a cost curve illustrates the relationship between production costs and quantity. Successful companies achieve economies of scale by reducing costs through efficiency. However, Western security firms operate on the wrong side of this curve. Production costs are high and productivity is low, pushing Western countries towards the opposite direction of the economy of scale. The experience of the war in Ukraine, Iran’s recent attack on Israel or the shelling of Yemen’s Houthis indicate a growing number of relatively cheap systems such as drones and low-tech missiles. battlefield. Intercepting them would require the use of expensive systems, which would reduce the capabilities of defending states in the long run. Why? Van Wagenen and David give a simple example – if our adversaries can build combat systems in a 4-year cycle, we need the technological complexity, long supply chains, number of co-producers, or focus on personnel safety. 10 years to do the same, then 20 years later, the parity becomes a 5 to 2 advantage over our competitors. This means that the West will not only begin to produce more weapons, which are having problems today, but also focus on developing a large number of cheap systems. One of the ideas is the American Replicate initiative, which aims to mobilize primarily private producers to start mass-deploying inexpensive unmanned systems as part of a public-private partnership. Another solution would be to develop laser weapons, especially for combating drones, which would certainly tilt the cost-effectiveness ratio in our favor, especially since a “shot” using this type of system costs about $10.

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European NATO countries now spend 2% of GDP on defense, which is a significant improvement, especially if the Russian Federation produces, let’s remember that such changes still do not guarantee an advantage over a strategic competitor. We produce cheap and expensive. What if their systems are technologically advanced, but their numbers still count on the battlefield. Finally let’s start talking seriously about the way we buy our weapons and ammunition in Poland, because we have to produce what we need to defend ourselves, preferably in state-owned enterprises, spending a lot of money is an idea. And get little in return.

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