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U.S. Army awards contracts to raise artillery shell production capacity

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army awarded two contracts to increase production capacity for the type of artillery shells Ukrainian soldiers have been using in vast quantities, the Army said on Thursday, as the United States seeks to replenish munitions sent to support Kyiv.

A contract to build a new component production line in Texas and another contract for making shell bodies were awarded to two companies in late November, the Army said.

They represent some of the first resources the Army has invested to increase production capacity for 155mm ammunition, a NATO-standard round, after U.S. aid to Ukraine drew from American stocks after Russia invaded its neighbor in February.

For months, the United States has sought to increase munitions production capacity. The Army has accelerated its weapons acquisition process to speed through a backlog of contracts needed to replenish weapons.

More than half a billion dollars to invest in the plants that make the ammunition was included in September's Continuing Resolution, the must-pass legislation that kept the U.S. government's lights on through mid-December.

One of the contracts is for General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc to build a new production line in Garland, Texas, for metal parts used in the 155mm ammunition, the Army said, without providing the contract value.

Ohio's IMT Defense Corp was awarded a separate contract worth $391 million to produce 155mm projectile shell bodies.

It was unclear whether the $540 million earmarked in the September Continuing Resolution to increase munitions production capacity would be used to fund these contracts. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis)