MILAN — Spain has answered the urgent call for European nations to ramp up ammo production by awarding local defense contractor Rheinmetall Expal Munitions a multimillion-dollar contract for 120mm munitions and issuing tenders for 155mm artillery shells.

For months, defense officials across the continent have urged European Union members to pressure their arms industries to increase munitions production to alleviate the supply chain crisis.

In mid-December, the Spanish government published notices stating it had ordered 120mm mortar shells, illuminating grenades, smoke grenades and other related explosive material from Rheinmetall Expal Munitions. The combined value of the listed contracts is estimated at $4.67 million.

The German company Rheinmetall acquired the Spanish company, formerly known as Expal Systems, in August in a deal worth $1.3 billion. The purchased firm has continued its activities in Spain and has plans to expand.

This month, the Spanish Defence Ministry issued calls to purchase 155mm artillery ammunition as well as modular extended-range artillery loads, for which it has jointly allocated up to $531 million. It’s unclear if all the artillery shells will be for the Army.

In December, Rheinmetall announced it received a large order for 155mm ammunition valued at €142 million (U.S. $155 million). It did not identify the customer, but its news release said the order came from “a NATO partner nation whose declared intention is to support Ukraine in its defensive struggle with effective long-term military aid.”

The shells will ultimately be bound for Ukraine, with their production planned to take place at Rheinmetall Expal Munitions’ facilities in Spain, and delivery scheduled for 2025.

These developments come as the EU tries to more quickly meet Ukraine’s ammunition needs following Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country that began in February 2022. Among the different initiatives is a European Commission-led effort, dubbed Act in Support of Ammunition Production, meant to ramp up the bloc’s production capacity.

In a recent statement about the effort, the bloc’s high representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell said that “the 155mm European production capacity is estimated to have already increased by 20-30% since February 2023, and is expected to reach 1 million per year in the spring of 2024.”

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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