By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army needs Congress to approve $3.1 billion to buy 155 millimeter artillery rounds and expand production to quickly replace stocks depleted by shipments to Ukraine and now Israel, an Army official said on Tuesday.
The U.S. and allies have sent more than 2 million rounds of 155 ammunition to Ukraine in support of its effort to repel Russia's invasion more than 600 days ago. The U.S. has also sent the artillery to Israel as it fights Hamas.
Doug Bush, the chief weapons buyer for the Army, told reporters that supplemental funding currently being considered by Congress as a apart of U.S. President Joe Biden's $106 billion request would go to modernize or build 155 millimeter artillery production facilities across many states including Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and California.
"The funding will expand production lines, strengthen the American economy and create new jobs," Bush told reporters.
Of the $3.1 billion specific to 155 artillery, about half would go to boosting industrial capacity with the remainder going to buying rounds, Bush said.
Other parts of Biden's $106 billion supplemental request, outside the $3.1 billion earmarked for 155 millimeter artillery, would go to funding expansion of other munitions, Bush said, including funds to boost the annual production rate of Patriot air defense interceptors to 650 from 550.
Demand for 155 mm artillery rounds has soared in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Allies' supplies for their own defense have been run down as they have rushed shells to Kyiv, which fires thousands of rounds per day.
The U.S. plans to increase its monthly production rate for 155 millimeter artillery shells to 100,000 in 2025.
In its most recent earnings report General Dynamics said it benefited from Pentagon spending to replace equipment sent to Ukraine, including 155 millimeter artillery.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)