German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrived in a small town in Lower Saxony on Monday for the inauguration ceremony of a new artillery ammunition factory.
The site is being built by defense company Rheinmetall in the town of Unterlüss, between Hanover and Hamburg, where the company already has production facilities.
The construction of the new artillery ammunition factory comes against a backdrop of increased demand, as countries aim to increase supplies to Ukraine, as well as keep their own stocks full.
Hundreds of thousands of shells per year
Rheinmetall, which saw its share price more than double after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, produces a range of military equipment that has become essential to Ukraine’s defense, including the Leopard 2 cannon and a long-range howitzer, the Panzerhaubitze 2000.
But artillery shells have gained increasing prominence, as the EU recently admitted that it would not be able to fulfill its promise to supply Ukraine with 1 million artillery shells by March.
Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told the German newspaper Tagesspiegel on Monday that once the new facility is completed, Germany will have the capacity to produce 200,000 artillery shells per year.
“Ukraine will receive several hundred thousand shells this year alone,” he said, as well as “several dozen armored vehicles and tanks” as well as air defense systems.
German public broadcaster NDR reported that the company invested 300 million euros ($323 million) in the project and hoped to create 500 new jobs.
Many people, including farmers with tractors, also gathered outside the site on Monday, although it was unclear how many were there to protest the construction of a new weapons factory and how many were simply protesting Scholz and his coalition government. .
Scholz’s ‘Zeitenwende’ in practice
Scholz’s presence at the symbolic inauguration event could prove to be one of the highlights of his chancellorship after announcing the “Zeitenwende” – or change of times – days after Russian troops marched en masse into Ukraine in February 2022.
This consisted of a unique rearmament program with a budget of 100 billion euros to be used to upgrade the Bundeswehr and strengthen the EU’s collective defense.
There has been little substantial progress since that announcement, but Papperger said he felt it was right that Scholz viewed the start of work on the new facility as a “success” for the chancellor.
Rheinmetall – which received contracts from the German state worth €10 billion last year, and expects even higher volume this year – also said it could pick up some of the slack if the US reduced or stopped altogether its own support for Ukraine.
“We can still expand our production – both in Ukraine and in Germany,” said Papperger Tagesspiegel referring to a new facility being created in Ukraine for the production of armored vehicles.
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