Lockheed falls behind in GMLRS production to meet new demands
The US arms manufacturing giant says the company needs increased labor, tools, and reforming supply chains to meet heightened demands.
Lockheed Martin is unable to produce more than 10,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GLMRS) despite the increase of demand by some countries that want to replenish or increase their weapon's stock, not to mention Ukraine's urgent requests to restock their long-range precision rockets after having suffered shortages earlier, Defense One website reported on Thursday.
At full capacity, the American arms company is able to produce 10,000 GLMRS annually and would need more machinery, skilled labor, and testing hardware to increase that capacity, according to the chief of business development at Lockheed Martin, Becky Withrow.
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The company can reach an annual production of 14,000 of the rockets in 2024, she said in an interview last Tuesday during the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium, adding that doubling current numbers would require at least two years.
Another issue is recruiting new workers to operate the production facilities that are located far from populated areas, she said. Knowing that the company is currently only operating on one shift, it is able to create a second one if necessary, she added.
The United States only has two companies that produce rocket motors, and these motors are used in GMLRS and other types of missiles as well, Withrow said. This creates supply chain problems, she added.
In September 2022, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the US needs to replenish and upgrade its stocks of military equipment. His comments then came just a few days after WSJ reported, citing a US defense official, that the quantity of 155mm combat ammunition in US military storage has dropped to "uncomfortably low" levels.
The war in Ukraine has reduced US military inventories of certain types of ammunition, as the US continues to supply Kiev with billions of dollars worth of weaponry, according to the journal. On its part, the US Department of Defense has been hesitant to replenish its arsenal, raising fears among US officials that the shortfall might undermine military readiness.
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Skilled workers that produce the GMLRS and other systems such as anti-tank Javelin missiles work for the same subcontractor. Increasing the production of one type of ammunition means slowing the production of the other, the Director said.
In September 2022, the US DoD announced that the United States has given the Raytheon-Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture a $311 million contract for 1,800 Javelin missiles to replenish stocks deployed to Ukraine.
Around 5,900 GMLRS ammo is currently in production by the US military in 2023, while Congress has been requested to purchase around 5,000 more rockets in 2024.
The high-precision missiles that can fly 70 kilometers with a 100kg explosive warhead have been especially in high demand by countries bordering Russia, Wirthow said, noting however that the demand is internationally high.
Last February, the United States approved the sale of $10 billion worth of GMLRS and its required equipment to Poland.